Foxwoods Dealers close to being unionized

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After much discussion and debate dealers at Foxwoods Casino will finally have their say on whether they want to join the United Autoworkers (UAW).

The 3,000-plus dealers sat down and voted on the issue yesterday, according to a story in the Hartford Courant. The outcome is not yet known but odds are in favor of the employees joining the UAW. It is believed to be the first federally supervised union vote at a tribal casino.

It's been a battle for the dealers' votes as the UAW and Foxwoods management have butted heads over the past few months. Both sides have their propaganda machines in high gear, with various pamphlets, DVDs and more making their way to the individual employees.

Management at the giant casino, considered to be one of the world's largest, admitted there have been problems in the past but say that joining a union is not the answer.

"Have we made mistakes? Absolutely. But we are trying to recognize that and are working very hard to resolve things," said Foxwoods President John O'Brien in a DVD given to the employees.

It may be a case of too little, too late, as many of the employees are seeking concrete change. Of chief concern are better wages, working conditions and benefits. Another rallying point for union supporters is the fact that a much-publicized promised raise last winter did not come to fruition for many of the dealers.

The UAW has a great deal of experience with unionizing casinos and has done so in both Atlantic City and Detroit.

Organized labor has tried many times to gain a foothold in Foxwoods but in the past was thwarted. A federal appeals court ruling earlier this year mandated that Indian tribes must follow federal labor law.

Both sides have a lot to lose. The UAW has seen massive declines in its membership due to numerous domestic auto factories being closed while Foxwoods is trying to keep up with new competition in neighboring states.

Meanwhile the Mashantucket Pequots see the federally run balloting as a blow to tribal sovereignty, which has been a large factor in the casino's success.

Foxwoods Casino Resort is located in Ledyard, Connecticut and employs over 10,000 people. The casino has over 340,000 square feet of gaming space and hosts both the World Poker Finals and the Foxwoods Poker Classic every year.

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