3,700 Detroit Casino Employees Begin Strike as Contract Talks Stall


  • 99% of casino workers represented by unions approved the strike
  • Cassino workers have received 3% increases over three years
  • Inflation in Detroit has increased 20% since the contracts were signed

Roughly 3,700 casino employees in Detroit, Michigan walked out of their jobs at noon Tuesday after contract negotiations proved futile, unions representing the workers said.

“After we helped Detroit’s gaming industry get back on its feet, business is booming, but the people who make the casinos run are still struggling,” said Nia Winston, president of Unite Here Local 24. “Our goal is to reach a fair deal, but unfortunately, we’re still far apart. If the companies cannot do better, then we are prepared to strike.”

Employees of all levels and stations at MGM Grand Detroit, MotorCity Casino, Hollywood Casino and Greektown joined the protest after the unions failed to agree on new wages and healthcare packages. The move happened hours after the casinos’ contracts with the Unite Here union expired.

Strength in numbers

99% of casino employees represented by unions voted in favor of granting the union leaders the power to call a strike if deemed appropriate.

The goal of the protest is to create an economic headache for the casinos. According to an official in one of the employee groups, Detroit and Michigan stand to lose “approximately $738,000 in city and state tax revenues and $3.4 million in casino operator revenues per day.”

Detroit’s casino workers have received 3% bumps in pay since September 2020. During that same time, local inflation has spiked 20%.

The value of employee retirement packages also has not changed in eight years, despite the city reporting a record $2.27 billion in gaming revenue in 2022.

The city is used to auto workers protesting, but the move has already caused problems for the casinos. MotorCity Casino changed its website shortly after the demonstration began, informing visitors that high-limit table games, poker room, casino valet, spa, and certain restaurants and bars were all closed.

The protests also had a spill-over into the world of legal sports betting. A spokesperson for FanDuel, which is partnered with MotorCity, said that its retail sportsbook would be closed unless a non-union casino employee took over at the counter.

MGM plans to keep the MGM Grand Detroit open for business regardless of the ongoing feud between laborers and executives.

“Regarding the status of our negotiations, we’ve made six proposals to the union and our current offer includes the single largest pay increase in the history of MGM Grand Detroit,” said Matt Buckley, president and COO of MGM’s Midwest Group. “It is a significant proposal.”

Resounding impact

The Detroit Casino Council (DCC), which includes a number of union groups, agreed to a three-year employee compensation package during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. In hindsight, the deal provided unflattering terms but needed to be agreed upon because of the economic devastation many Americans felt.

“In 2022, the Detroit casino industry generated $2.27 billion in gaming revenue and is on track for another record-breaking year in 2023,” the DCC said in a release. “The three Detroit casinos collectively reported $813 million more in total gaming revenues in 2022 than in 2019, but total wages paid to workers represented by the DCC were $34 million less when comparing those same years.”

Officials at the casinos remain committed to reaching a new deal with the laborers. However, there is concern from Las Vegas executives that the strikes will encourage other casino workers around the country to take similar action.

“It doesn’t help when UAW in Detroit is asking for 40%,” MGM CEO Bill Hornbuckle said at the Global Gaming Expo last week. “I mean, that’s a top line that’s hard to ignore. That being said, I think what matters here locally is people’s ability, particularly on the front line to exist, to pay rent and to get to the next step in life. And so I think that’s what’s relevant.”

Gwen Mills, Secretary-Treasurer of UNITE HERE International Union, confirmed that strikes will be a tool used by labor groups to “raise wages and standards for casino workers.”

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