[Des Plaines, IL] –Last week, UNITE HERE Local 1 filed 31 unfair labor practice charges, alleging violations of federal labor law against non-union workers at Rivers Casino Des Plaines. The charges show how the company has violated federal law, responding to workers’ efforts to organize with an aggressive anti-union campaign that includes threats, surveillance, and other intimidation. The dispute entangles Chicago billionaire Neil Bluhm, who is the chairman of the company that owns Rivers Casino.
In late October, workers began organizing in response to unsafe working conditions, chronic understaffing, and lack of job security. Workers claim that management has, among other tactics, threatened the loss of benefits, ordered union fliers thrown in the trash, held captive-audience meetings, and prohibited workers from talking about the union. These tactics can create a climate of fear, hindering employees from unionizing.
“After speaking out in support of the union, I was threatened by a manager and told to ‘shut up,’” said dishwasher Rosaura Villanueva, who has worked at Rivers Casino for two years. “I was nervous, but I stood up because I don’t want to have to rely on public aid to support my infant son.”
Non-union casino workers at Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh report similar management-led intimidation campaigns. Bluhm is the Managing Principal of Walton Street Capital, which holds a majority stake of the company that owns Rivers Casino Pittsburgh. Bluhm-family trusts hold a majority stake of the company that owns SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia, where workers also face an aggressive anti-union campaign. Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh settled 29 charges filed against it there after the NLRB General Counsel found merit in the charges and authorized a complaint against the company based on them. The NLRB is also reviewing charges filed against the SugarHouse Casino this month.
Federal records show Bluhm’s casinos’ oversight companies gave $515,000 to a radical Anti-Obama group called Kulture Consulting LLC. Kulture’s leader has published attacks against President Obama, stating that the President “has launched a full-out frontal assault on America” and intends to “make the American public bleed.” Neil Bluhm is known as a major Obama donor.
Rivers Casino rakes in the most revenue of any casino in the state of Illinois. Its investors have received $285 million in cash distributions since the casino opened in July 2011.
UNITE HERE Local 1 represents approximately 15,000 hospitality workers in the Chicago area and Northwest Indiana.