Detroit, MI – In a powerful display of solidarity, thousands of casino workers in Detroit have gone on strike, demanding higher wages and better working conditions. As the cost of living has steadily increased in recent years, these dedicated employees have taken a stand against some of the city’s major gaming establishments, including the MGM Grand Detroit, MotorCity Casino, and Hollywood Casino at Greektown.
The strike, organized by the Detroit Casino Council, representing a coalition of five unions, encompasses various positions across the casinos, from dealers and cleaning staff to food and beverage workers, valets, engineers, and more. These workers have been joined by their allies from the United Auto Workers, emphasizing the broad support for their cause.
The immediate impact of the strike is evident. MotorCity Casino, one of the affected establishments, has updated its website to announce the temporary closure of high-limit table games, poker rooms, casino valet services, as well as its spa and select restaurants and bars. Even FanDuel, in conjunction with MotorCity, will be closed, except for non-union employees responsible for cash transactions, as required by Michigan regulations.
However, the response from the casinos’ management varies. The Hollywood Casino at Greektown has expressed disappointment with the strike but intends to remain open for business. On the other hand, MGM Resorts International, which owns the MGM Grand Detroit, has communicated its commitment to continue casino operations. In a letter to employees, Matt Buckley, the president and COO of MGM’s Midwest Group, highlighted their offer of “the single largest pay increase in the history of MGM Grand Detroit.”
The Detroit Casino Council argues that the casino workers agreed to a three-year contract during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, a deal that has now expired. Despite a 20% surge in the cost of living due to high inflation, the previous contract included only 3% wage increases. This, they say, is unjust when the Detroit casino industry reported record-breaking gaming revenues of $2.27 billion in 2022 and is on track for another prosperous year in 2023. They also pointed out that despite the increase in gaming revenues, total wages for DCC-represented workers have decreased by $34 million when comparing 2019 to 2022.
It’s essential to note that these revenue figures include iGaming and online sports revenues, as Michigan gaming regulators require partnerships with land-based casinos for licenses. The Detroit Casino Council estimates that each day of the strike could potentially put approximately $738,000 in city and state tax revenues and $3.4 million in casino operator revenues at risk, highlighting the significant financial impact this labor dispute carries.
This strike in Detroit is not an isolated incident. Across the nation in Las Vegas, MGM Resorts, Caesars Entertainment, and Wynn Resorts are also facing the possibility of walkouts. Almost 40,000 members of the Culinary Union have authorized a strike, although it has not been called yet, as negotiations continue.
MGM CEO Bill Hornbuckle acknowledged the challenges in negotiations during a recent keynote presentation at the Global Gaming Expo. He emphasized the importance of addressing the frontline workers’ needs, who are striving to make ends meet and build a better future for themselves and their families. He also pointed out the influence of other labor strikes on the ongoing negotiations in Las Vegas, highlighting the urgent need for fair wages and working conditions across various industries.
In the heart of Detroit, this strike serves as a stark reminder of the power that workers hold when they unite for a common cause. It sheds light on the struggle for equitable compensation and improved working conditions in a city that has seen significant economic growth in its gaming industry. As negotiations continue, the future of Detroit’s casino industry and its dedicated workforce hangs in the balance.