Foxwoods Resort Casino, one of Connecticut’s two casinos, is facing criticism for placing more than 5,000 employees, including around 1,200 unionized workers, on furlough after it closed temporarily last week.
The state’s two tribal casinos as well as a number of other businesses were ordered to shut down for at least two weeks as part of the measures invoked by Connecticut lawmakers to reduce the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus.
Foxwoods, operated by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, and Mohegan Sun, managed by Mohegan Sun, are the only two casinos that are authorized to operate on the territory of Connecticut. Both properties went dark last Tuesday to join the slew of gambling venues around the country to close in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Following Foxwoods’ closure, news emerged that the casino has furloughed more than 5,000 workers, including 1,200 unionized employees represented by Local 2121 of the United Auto Workers.
The union informed the affected workers that the casino did not agree to paid leave for workers. The gambling venue closed amid contract negotiations between its management and employees represented by Local 2121.
Commenting on Foxwoods’ actions, Local 2121 President John DelMonte said that they were very disappointed that the casino refused to negotiate paid leave and that they were proactive when seeking casino management’s assistance on the issue, while Foxwoods instead “chose to be reactive.”
Mr. DelMonte also pointed out that Local 2121 was given 24 hours to inform its members that they would be placed on furlough for two weeks and would be forced to collect unemployment if they sought minimum compensation.
A Great Hardship
Mr. DelMonte said that Foxwoods’ refusal to negotiate paid leave has “caused our members and the other 4,000 workers at Foxwoods a great hardship as well as overloading our state’s unemployment system.”
The previous contract between unionized workers and Foxwoods expired on December 31, 2019, but its terms remain in force until a new agreement is negotiated. Neither side has provided information on the progress of ongoing discussions over new contract terms.
In response to Local 2121’s criticism over the furloughs, Foxwoods President and CEO John James said that the unprecedented situation forces them to make business decisions that are based on a number of factors “including the safety of our Team Members and guests as well as the requirements and/or guidance of executive orders/requests from the Governor and other state leaders.”
Mr. James went on that they recognize and respect their duty to bargain and that they will continue their obligation, but they “also have to be nimble as things develop rapidly.” The executive promised that they will try to do what is best for their employees and the business in order to all come out of the situation in a manner that will allow them to recover.
Most workers at the other Connecticut casino, Mohegan Sun, have, too, been placed on furlough following the property’s closure last week. The casino said that its team members will continue to receive health benefits as well as access to key services during the period of closure.