Detroit casino workers could begin striking by Tuesday afternoon

Posted at 9:58 PM, Oct 16, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-17 08:03:01-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — It's been called the "year of the strike." From screen writers to auto workers, unions are walking off the job. Soon, workers at Detroit casinos could join them.

“We’re not asking to get rich off of them, we’re not asking for the CEO’s pay, we’re just asking to be fair,” said Motor City Casino employee Terri Sykes, who is also president of UAW Local 7777.

Sykes is a dealer, one of many casino employees represented by the United Auto Workers. It’s one of five unions that cover most employees at Detroit’s casinos through the Detroit Casino Council. Their current contract expires at midnight.

“We’re still miles apart,” Sykes said of negotiations. “Miles apart.”

Among concerns over health care and wage increases, workload is also a concern. The council says casinos have 1,500 less employees since before the pandemic.

“Taking on the jobs of two to three people is a lot,” Motor City Casino employee Ulyssis Bryant said. “That’s what we've been dealing with for years now.”

If they strike, more than 3,000 casino workers will join the 250 SEIU nursing home workers, 1,100 Blue Cross Blue Shield workers and more than 30,000 UAW workers all on the pickett line.

“Certainly, there is a contagious effect and they look at each other and see the struggle for other wages,” said Marick Masters, professor of business at Wayne State University. “Strikes have increased significantly this year

2023 has been the largest year of strikes since 2000. Masters, who’s covered labor for roughly 40 years, says it’s partially due to the pandemic.

“People are clamoring to get back what they lost and to restore the balance between labor and business,” Masters said. “As employers are doing better and they recover from the pandemic, they're in a better position.”

Masters also says inflation has tightened workers wallets, and technology is also a major factor, as screen writers deal with streaming services, the UAW navigates an EV transition and casino workers deal with mobile apps and virtual games.

“We really want that technology piece to be part of the contract, where we have a say so on how they implement the technology that’s going to impact our workers,” MGM Grand employee Jamil Johnson said.

With all these factors coming together, 2023 has been the year of the strike. These workers also hopes it becomes the year for record contracts

“Workers are fed up. Workers are tired of giving back and not getting back,” Blue Cross Blue Shield employee Derrick Jackson said.

“It’s just the brotherhood and sisterhood of everybody standing together, fighting for what we all believe in and doing it together,” Bryant said. “That does make you stronger, absolutely.”

Ninety-nine percent of Detroit Casino Council members voted for the strike.