[Chicago] – Today, February 19, Chicago hospitality workers and casino workers from Rivers Casino Des Plaines, Rivers Casino Pittsburgh, and Sugarhouse Casino in Philadelphia are asking Chicago billionaire Neil Bluhm to keep his promise for a fair process for them to decide whether to unionize. Bluhm and his family’s trust funds wholly own the company which oversees the three casinos.
Casino workers have been publicly seeking a fair process to decide whether to join a union since August 2011 in Philadelphia, April 2013 in Pittsburgh, and October 2013 in Des Plaines. Since then, Bluhm casinos have embarked on an intimidation and harassment campaign. Bluhm’s casinos’ oversight companies also gave $515,000 to a group led by an anti-Obama blogger calling itself “Kulture Consulting LLC” in return for union-busting services at the two casinos in Pennsylvania. In September 2013, Rivers Pittsburgh settled 29 federal unfair labor practice charges.
In 2012, Bluhm’s investment management company, Walton Street Capital, told investors it was adopting a fair process policy with respect to workers to exercise their right to seek union representation without intimidation or harassment at properties owned by Walton Street Capital. A Walton Street vehicle is the majority owner of the Pittsburgh casino.
“All we’re asking is they make good on a fair process,” said Rosaura Villanueva, a dishwasher at Rivers Casino Des Plaines. “But these casinos haven’t been neutral at all. That’s why we decided to come to Bluhm’s headquarters – so they would see that we’re not going to be divided by tactics dreamed-up by anti-union consultants. We are united for a fair process.”
One of the consultants hired by a Bluhm-affiliated company was Kulture Consulting, whose founder and CEO Peter List is the editor and chief blogger of Laborunionreport.com and a writer at RedState.com. Mr. List’s blog posts regularly attack unions, public sector employees, teachers, and public retirement plans.
“Kulture is a curious choice of consultant for a company affiliated with Mr. Bluhm,” said Carly Karmel, UNITE HERE Local 1 spokesperson. Bluhm is a well-known Democratic fundraiser, and Walton Street Capital invests retirement funds for many of the country’s largest public sector pension plans.
UNITE HERE Local 1 represents approximately 15,000 hospitality workers in the Chicago area and Northwest Indiana.