“Today, by a vote of 327 to 5, workers at Twin River Casino have voted overwhelmingly to authorize our bargaining committee to call a strike,” said Twin River banquet captain Julie Procaccini to the cheers of her co-workers, “We have done everything we can to make Twin River Casino management aware of the crisis it is creating for our Rhode Island families by slashing our healthcare and taking away our benefits.
“The workers of Twin River Casino bring $282 million into the State of Rhode Island Treasury, but Twin River Casino makes us pay more than we can afford if we want health care benefits for our children. As much as one-third of our income goes to the cost of family healthcare. We are available to meet with Twin River management night and day to come to an agreement that works for our families and our children.
“If we cannot come to an agreement by Friday, 4am, we will strike,” said Procaccini.
This would be the first strike of Unite Here! Local 26 members in Rhode Island since 1980, according to the union. The union and Twin River Casino management have been negotiating since February.
“If I were to put me and my daughter on Twin River’s health care, it would cost us $1,200 a month—as much as rent or a mortgage,” said Alexis Maciel, a beverage server, seen below in the video with her daughter. “I’d have to move my family to afford Twin River’s health care.”
“It’s hard for us to get health care in this business of food and beverage,” said bartender Valerie Costa. “This was one of the places that did provide health care, which was wonderful, until it became out of control.”
In January, Twin River Casino slashed its healthcare contributions, forcing workers like Costa to pay $230 to $250, or more, per week for a family plan.
“I have a family. I have two children and a husband. I pay for the family plan… It’s a mortgage payment… We are fortunate enough to have two incomes, and one of the incomes pays for healthcare.”
Banquet cook Diana Pena is a single mom with a one-year old son. Pena says she’s fighting for her benefits. As for healthcare, says Pena, “We deserve it… [but] I cannot even pay it. How am I going to pay my rent… I’m a single mom and it’s so, so, so hard…”
At an event last week at the State House, hundreds of Unite Here! Local 26 members turned out in support of the Twin River Casino workers. At that event Mike Maini of Teamsters Local 251 said his union would honor the strike.
Twin River Casino spokesperson Patti Doyle, reached for comment, said, “We were aware in advance of the possible strike action by a subset of Twin River Casino employees. We have prepared for this eventuality and expect no interruption in the food, beverage and gaming service we intend to provide our customers this weekend.
“That said, we also have placed ads in local publications for positions in our food and beverage departments. We have immediate openings, and offer highly competitive wages and benefits.
“Beyond this, we have no further comment on the strike action.”
According to Unite Here!, since 2009, Rhode Island has passed six laws to help increase Twin River’s revenue. Last fall, Twin River rewarded its shareholders with a $20 million stock buyback.