Majestic Star Casino employees protest, call for fair contracts
By Carrie Napoleon Post-Tribune correspondent September 2, 2013 10:58PM
Northwest Indiana casino workers and their allies protest the Majestic Star Casino for a fair contract for its workers. Majestic Star workers have been without a contract since Sept. 5, 2012. Union representatives say they want the living wages and health
Updated: October 4, 2013 6:25AM
Gary — Majestic Star Casino employees and their supporters donned red shirts and waved signs outside the casino entrance on Labor Day in a protest calling for a fair contract for workers.
Members of UNITE HERE Local 1, which represents the casino workers, have been without a contract since Sept. 5, 2012, according to shop steward Maria Cottingim.
Cottingim, a bartender at Majestic Star, has been with the casino since it first opened 17 years ago. When the casinos were first approved, the companies promised local officials the jobs that would be created would be good jobs.
Now, she said, new owners are trying to change that.
“We don’t want anything taken away after 17 years,” she said.
Carly Karmel, with UNITE HERE Local 1’s Chicago office, said casinos like the Majestic Star were approved by political leaders based on the promise they would bring stable jobs to hard-hit areas like Northwest Indiana.
Majestic Star casino workers have fought hard to make casino jobs in Northwest Indiana good, middle class jobs. However, workers at the casino have been without a contract for a year.
Cottingim said health insurance benefits have been the main sticking point during the negotiations because the casino wants employees to pay for insurance or switch to a plan used by non-union workers. In the latest proposal casino officials want to change the full-time work week to 30 hours in addition to the insurance changes, another concern.
Employees like her have been at the casino through multiple owners and a bankruptcy and have not had their benefits challenged like the current owner.
“What we are hoping is we will send the message we will fight for what is rightfully ours,” Cottingham said. “These companies promised better jobs, better wages.”