Mardi Gras 10: March for Freedom, Not Fear

On May 8, more than 500 people will marched  to support the 10 worker-leaders fired during an organizing drive last November at Mardi Gras Casino in Florida. Those who planned to be arrested included fired workers from Mardi Gras Casino, clergy, community leaders, and workers from UNITE HERE! Local 355. The rally comes a week after the National Labor Relations Board filed complaints against the casino operators claiming, among other things, that management “threatened to discharge employees if they engaged in union activities or protected concerted activities.” The rally and civil disobedience participants have come together under the banner of the Florida Freedom Charter, a joint-community and labor effort to address the critical issues and challenges facing Florida’s working families.

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National Labor Relations Board Files Formal Complaint Against Mardi Gras Casino

mardigras2Following a thorough, four-month investigation, the National Labor Relations Board’s counsel in Miami has filed a formal complaint against the operators of the Mardi Gras Casino in Hallandale, Florida. The complaint comes after 10 workers who were leaders of a union organizing drive were fired in November 2011.

The complaint asserts, among other things, that management interrogated its employees about their union involvement and their coworkers’ union involvement and threatened employees with termination and other retaliations if they were to join the union. Further, the complaint charges that the operators of Mardi Gras Casino created the impression that employees were under surveillance and management implied promised benefits to employees who “refrained from engaging in union activities.”

As one of the proposed remedies, the Board’s General Counsel is also seeking an Order requiring that the 10 workers fired last November during the beginnings of an organizing drive receive full back pay. Mardi Gras must respond to this complaint on or before May 14, 2012.

“This is a huge victory for me personally, for our organizing at Mardi Gras, and for any worker who is strong enough to stand up for what she believes,” said Tashana McKenzie, a slot attendant who is one of those workers whom NLRB Counsel says was illegally fired at the casino. “This is also a victory for the thousands of our supporters across the country.”

The 10 workers were fired last November shortly after workers at the casino started to organize to join UNITE HERE, a union that represents more than 150,000 gaming and hospitality workers across the country. Workers have rallied community support around the region through a Facebook page, “Bring Back the Mardi Gras 10.”(Facebook.com/BringBackTheMardiGras10)

Fr. Richard Aguilar, and Episcopal priest and supporter of the Mardi Gras 10, was pleased to hear about the federal complaint. “In the past few weeks, many of us in the faith community have prayed and discussed the importance of this fight: what it means to our congregations, what it means to the community and what it means to the thousands of disenfranchised minority workers in our tourism based economy. I’m proud to support the Mardi Gras 10 and a new vision for Florida.”

The complaint comes less than a week before UNITE HERE Local 355, the union which represents over 5,400 hotel, airport, stadium, and casino workers in South Florida, will conduct a major rally and march in support of the workers at Mardi Gras and to promote the tenets of the Florida Freedom Charter. The march on May 8 will begin at BF James Park in Hallandale at 6pm and end in front of Mardi Gras Casino.

Marlins Stadium Concession Workers Win Union

UNITE HERE Local 355, south Florida’s hospitality workers union, is pleased to announce that well over 800 new Marlins Park food service workers have chosen to unionize. Employed through Levy Restaurants, the designated concessions operators, the workers are excited to be union members and are eager to start negotiations.

Jamail Taylor, a food runner at the stadium is one of those workers. “I grew up here. I’ve worked hard and have worked in a stadium before. This time around, we all decided we needed to do more. We have to stick together to make sure we have access to fair wages, job security and that we’re treated with respect.”

Wendi Walsh, the President of UNITEHERE Local 355 agreed. “We’re entering a new era in Florida employment. Business and community must stop referring to Florida as a haven for low-wage jobs. Better stadium jobs improve the economy on all levels. Congratulations to all the Marlins food service workers who organized themselves and joined the struggle for all workers in South Florida,” she said.

Marlins workers will soon negotiate their contract with the hospitality operator. “Levy signed an agreement saying they will not disrupt the organizing efforts of their workers. They held true to their commitment,” said Andy Madtes, President of the South Florida AFL-CIO and Secretary-Treasurer of UNITE HERE Local 355. He added, “We are hopeful that their good faith efforts will extend to negotiations. Equally important, today’s victory sends a message to all employers – particularly those in hospitality to stay true to their agreements with workers and the community. Marlins workers see the connection between their jobs and the jobs of their fellow workers in hotels, airports and casinos.

“When we organized, my co-workers and I talked about real issues: unemployment, education, housing, civil rights and good jobs, all principles in the Florida Freedom Charter. This is more than just good jobs for me and my co-workers. This is about a plan to address the real challenges and struggles we all go through. Go Marlins, go South Florida!” said Lamont Byrd, a stand lead at the new stadium.

With the addition of Marlins Stadium, UNITE HERE Local 355 now represents over 5,400 casino, hotel, airport concessions and food service workers in South Florida.

Contracts Settled!

Already in 2011 we have settled contracts at HMS Host and Gulfstream Casino/Racetrack.

Host workers fought hard, doing petitions, delegations, leafleting, and more to win a good contract. We voted NO on the first offer and went back to the table even stronger. Finally, we maintained our free health care, got wage increases, and very important improvements in our scheduling language.

At Gulfstream, we maintained our health care at the same minimal cost and held on to all of our rights. Now we must unionize the other casinos.

Congratulations, Nathan’s Workers!

To our newest union members at Nathan’s working for Concessions International at Miami International Airport.

These brave workers recently joined the union and are on the verge of their first contract!

Nearly 100 Union Leaders Kick Off Summer Program

On May 17, an all-day convention was for all union leaders. This will be a BIG summer where we will take on issues that affect all of us and our families, including:

  • Fights for respect and better treatment at work
  • Immigration policy
  • Good, affordable education for ourselves and our children.
  • How to meet the rising costs of gas, food, housing
  • We must join hands with other organizations who are fighting for social justice!