Community to Rivers Casino: Halt illegal intimidation tactics imposed on workers

Casino faces 31 unfair labor practice charges filed with federal agency

Des Plaines, IL – Today, Dec. 18, clergy and community leaders from Chicago and the Northwest suburbs are delivering a petition signed by 33 allies supporting employees at the Rivers Casino Des Plaines. Allies are calling on the casino to immediately halt intimidation tactics that would violate federal labor law. Workers are organizing in response to unsafe working conditions, chronic understaffing, and lack of job security. The dispute entangles Chicago billionaire Neil Bluhm, who is the chairman of the company that owns Rivers Casino.

“As a member of the faith community, I support, and the United Methodist Church supports, the right of workers to organize free from fear and intimidation,” said Reverend Betty Jo (B.J.) Birkhahn-Rommelfanger, United Methodist Pastor at the Church of the Incarnation in Arlington Heights. “We call on the casino to stop threatening workers who are standing up for respect, job security, and dignity.”

Last month, UNITE HERE Local 1 filed 31 unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Review Board (NLRB). 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 tactics.

“My coworkers and I are scared, but I am standing up because I am fighting for my family,” said Kenneth Fung, line cook at Rivers Casino. “I will not let fear get in the way of us making change.”

“Mr. Bluhm and other owners who have profited from the casino must direct management to immediately stop its illegal fear campaign against the workers who helped Rivers Casino become the most successful casino in the state of Illinois,” said Rabbi Brant Rosen, Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation in Evanston and co-chairperson of the Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbinical Council.

Non-union casino workers at two Bluhm casinos in Pennsylvania report similar management-led intimidation techniques. At the Rivers Casino Pittsburgh, the casino settled 29 charges filed against it after the NLRB General Counsel found merit in the charges and authorized a complaint filed against the company based on them. The NLRB is also reviewing charges filed against the SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia surrounding the firing of a union supporter.

Furthermore, in 2011, the NLRB found that Rivers Casino Pittsburgh broke federal labor law. The NLRB ruled that the casino “restricted employees’ right to engage in union activity at the workplace, surveilled union activity, and it impermissibly granted a benefit to employees on the day of the election,” according to the NLRB decision.


UNITE HERE Local 1 represents approximately 15,000 hospitality workers in the Chicago area and Northwest Indiana.