Union members make presence known at gaming commission

2012-11-15T14:49:00Z 2012-11-15T20:59:05Z Union members make presence known at gaming commissionBy Keith Benman keith.benman@nwi.com, (219) 933-3326 nwitimes.com

INDIANAPOLIS | Union casino workers were seen but not heard at Thursday's meeting of the Indiana Gaming Commission.

About a dozen members of Unite Here Local 1 showed up at the 1 p.m. meeting of the Indiana Gaming Commission in Indianapolis to protest the layoff of 80 employees at Majestic Star Casinos.

“We want to let them know what's going on in Gary,” said Angel Richard, a hostess and cashier at Majestic Star, whose mother was one of those laid off.

But union members had to do that silently during the meeting by holding up pieces of paper reading “Don't let casino workers get left behind” and “Hey Wayzata don't take away Indiana jobs.”

They mounted the silent protest because the union's request to address the commission was denied following the Oct. 31 layoffs.

The union's request to speak at the meeting did not arrive, as required by the Indiana Administrative Code, more than 10 days in advance of the meeting to be added to the agenda, according to Indiana Gaming Commission Executive Director Ernest Yelton.

He said the commission is strict about adhering to the 10-day stipulation.

However, Yelton said the union and its members could submit written testimony about the issue to the commission.

Majestic Star, owned by Minnesota-based Wayzata International Partners, eliminated the 80 union and nonunion jobs because of “regional economic softness, seasonal business fluctuations and increased competition,” according to a statement issued by the company.

Alisha Coleman, who worked at Majestic Star for 11 years, said she “cried and prayed” after being laid off at the end of October.

She said union members had wondered at the ease with which Wayzata was given a gaming license last year after the bankruptcy of its previous owner. At the time, Wayzata assured the commission it would operate the two casinos in a responsible fashion.

“Hopefully today we will accomplish getting them (the commission) talking some sense to them (Wayzata) saying we have to get our jobs back,” she said before the meeting, when union members were still hoping to speak to the commission directly.

“They gave this license to people who aren't even doing what they are suppose to do for the people of Indiana,” she added.

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