Federal Government alleges more than 20 violations of labor law against Pinnacle’s Ameristar Casino in East Chicago

Noah Carson-Nelson
[email protected]

CHICAGO — On March 21, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Chicago Regional Office issued a federal complaint against the Ameristar Casino East Chicago which is owned and operated by Pinnacle Entertainment, Inc. The alleged violations include firing a bartender on the basis of her union activity and threatening employees—all alleged to violate employees’ rights under federal labor law.

UNITE HERE members protest outside Ameristar Casino in June 2015

UNITE HERE members protest outside Ameristar Casino in June 2015

According to the NLRB complaint, which can be found herealleged violations by Pinnacle management and select staff at the casino include: 

  • Filing a lawsuit in Indiana Superior Court with “a motive to retaliate against the Union”
  • Firing a long-time bartender, Jessica Levin, because she contacted customers about the boycott she and her coworkers have called on Ameristar
  • Interfering with employees’ protected union activity by surveilling and photographing workers participating in rallies outside the casino and using those photos to create the impression that employees were under surveillance
  • Making changes to job classifications and break policies without negotiating with the union, including blocking long-term bartenders and servers from returning to their jobs in the sports bar when it was remodeled

The complaint comes in the midst of an attempt by members of UNITE HERE Local 1 at Ameristar to negotiate a new contract with the casino.  The last contract originally expired on October 31, 2012.

“We should have the same benefits as the rest of the unionized casinos in the area” says Jessica Fisch, a cocktail server at the Ameristar Casino for the past 16 years. “Ever since Pinnacle took over in 2013, they’ve been bad for us and for Northwest Indiana.  I’m glad the Labor Board is seeking an order that will make them stop doing things that violate our rights.”

The NLRB General Counsel found sufficient basis to prosecute more than 20 allegations of unfair labor practice at Ameristar Casino and will seek remedies that include restoring employees for any losses they may have incurred due to the violations and reimbursing the Union for legal fees associated with the lawsuit. A hearing is scheduled for June 27 in Chicago.

UNITE HERE represents 1,500 casino workers in Indiana.