Ameristar Casino Workers Settle Contract

New contract increases wages across the board, adds retirement benefits, and limits number of part-time jobs

East Chicago, IN – After a year-long contract dispute with Ameristar, members of UNITE HERE Local 1 ratified historic new contracts covering over 200 workers at the casino in East Chicago, Indiana. The contract settlement represents a major victory for workers at the casino, whose contracts expired on October 31, 2009.

Most significantly, the new contract includes language that protects jobs for Ameristar workers by guaranteeing limits on the use of part-time employees. Terms of the settlement also include retroactive raises across the board and first-time retirement benefits for Ameristar workers. Workers also were able to preserve health care coverage with no increases in costs to employees at a time when employers nationally are slashing employer-provided healthcare and raising health plan costs.

Ameristar workers have led a year-long campaign to raise awareness about the growing reliance on part-time workers to staff the casinos, leafleting, holding actions, and testifying before the Indiana Gaming Commission on the adverse effect of staffing cuts to the regional economy. The settlement, which limits the number of part-time workers with few or no benefits, will help to ensure that jobs in the Northwest Indiana gaming industry remain stable, middle-class jobs.

“This contract settlement is a victory for Ameristar workers and the region,” says Jami Peterson, a bartender who has worked at Ameristar for the last 13 years. “When gaming came to Indiana over a dozen years ago, these casinos were supposed to provide good jobs to replace the ones that were moving overseas. Now we have protections in the contract that ensure that more and more of us can go to the doctor, get off of welfare, or retire with dignity.”

Contracts between members of UNITE HERE Local 1 and three Indiana casinos, Ameristar East Chicago, Majestic Star Casino in Gary, and Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City, expired October 31, 2009. UNITE HERE Local 1 settled a contract with Blue Chip in July 2010 and is still in negotiations with Majestic Star. In 2004, workers at these casinos won historic contracts that secured fully employer-paid health insurance for individuals for the first time. Workers cite keeping that healthcare coverage among their top concerns in negotiations for the new contracts. Layoffs and reduced hours, resulting in the loss of health insurance and other benefits, are among other top concerns.

UNITE HERE Local 1, Chicago’s hospitality workers union, represents over
15,000 hotel and food service workers in Chicago and casino workers in Northwest Indiana.

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