“I’m not one to write speeches, I speak from the heart. I speak for one thing that motivates me here today, and that’s solidarity!” said Mike Maini, Business Agent for Teamsters Local 251. “We’re going to take on corporate greed! We’re going to take on corporate welfare, and we’re going to make the casino give you good healthcare, because that’s what we do! Solidarity!
Maini was speaking to the over 200 Twin River Casino food and beverage workers rallying in the main rotunda of the Rhode Island State House yesterday to protest cuts to their healthcare. The workers, represented by Unite Here! Local 26, were there to warn legislators that if their healthcare is cut, they will go on strike. Maini was there to say that the potential strike would be honored by the Teamsters, threatening delays in the construction of a new, $25-million, 135 room hotel slated to open in June 2018 and already seven months behind schedule.
“So the hotel wants to get built, and I can tell you right now the Teamsters bringing your liquor, they bring you your freight, they bring you your concrete, they bring everything that you touch in that casino, and I’m telling you now, if [Unite Here! Local 26] walk[s] out, Local 251 stands with you, and we’re going to honor your strike.”
According to Jenna Karlin, vice president of Unite Here Local 26, “Twin River Casino cut its employees’ health care coverage on January 1. Under the new plan, workers would pay more than $100,000 more for the same services they received in 2016, more than tripling workers’ out-of-pocket costs.” Meanwhile, “Twin River has seen its share of gaming revenues more than double in the last 7 years to over $225 million. In December, Twin River’s holding company paid investors $20 million in a stock buyback.”
“I’m a single mother. For the last 16 months, doctors have been monitoring me for breast cancer,” said Julie Procaccini, a banquet captain at Twin River Casino. “Twin River cuts our plan on January 1. I’ve had to get a second job to pay for my medical expenses. I don’t want to strike, but when Twin River wants to nickel and dime my family into poverty, you better believe I’m going to fight back,” she said.
Val Costa, a bartender at Twin River, said, “Twin River’s cuts to my family’s healthcare are a slap in the face after the casino has posted years of revenue increases. Family healthcare is practically unaffordable at Twin River Casino. Making sure my two children have health insurance costs me around $1,200 a month. Some pay periods, once my health insurance premium is deducted from my paycheck, I end up owing the company money.”
Many of the Twin River Casino workers went door-to-door generating support for the recent referendum, and said they feel betrayed by the company, which they supported on their own time.
Gambling is the third largest source of revenue for Rhode Island, said Representative Scott Slater, and Twin River Casino is a big part of that. The owners of the casino were granted big concessions from the General Assembly because they promised good paying jobs, said Slater to the crowd. Slater offered his full support to the workers. Also seen at the rally were Representatives William O’Brien and Aaron Regunberg. Representatives Grace Diaz and Shelby Maldonado also addressed the crowd in support.
You can see all the video from the rally here:
“Members of UNITE HERE Local 26, brandished petitions with the slogan, ‘Twin River Casino Workers Ready to Strike,’ which carried photos of the hundreds of over 300 food and beverage workers at Twin River Casino who have pledged to join the strike action.”