On Wednesday, members of UNITE HERE Local 26 held a strike authorization vote in Charlestown. UNITE HERE represents more than 1,400 service workers at Encore Boston Harbor luxury hotel resort and casino.
Members of the union were permitted to vote all day on Wednesday, and official results from the vote are expected to be made public early Thursday morning.
If a strike occurs, it would be the first such action against one of the three Massachusetts casinos.
Employees prepared to strike
Also expected on Thursday morning is the announcement of a deadline for a deal to be reached with ownership. If no such agreement is reached, employees will strike and form picket lines. Members of Teamsters Local 25 have also promised to refuse to deliver essential items to the facility should that happen.
The collective bargaining agreement between Encore Boston Harbor, which is owned and operated by Wynn Resorts, expired in April.
It’s been more than two weeks since management and the union have had substantive negotiations. If Encore Boston Harbor and Wynn representatives do not engage in talks by the deadline set by the union, the ability for the casino to function could be in doubt.
The union members, who perform service jobs (cooks, porters, cleaning staff, cocktail waitresses and some delivery drivers), are seeking better wages, as well as improvements in working conditions. Employees also seek more access to 401k benefits and expanded health benefits for classifications of workers.
Several EBH employees, including cocktail server Monike Martin, have stated that all they want is “to be paid a five-star contract for working at a five-star resort.”
In an interview with PlayMA earlier this week, housekeeper Ritza Mendieta said, “We don’t want to strike. But we have no choice.”
Other troubles for Encore Boston Harbor
Along with its labor problems, Encore Boston Harbor is currently struggling to gain support for an expansion project. Over the past few months, public hearings on a proposed expansion of the EBH site in Everett have been met with opposition and criticism.
Community members and Encore Boston Harbor workers have expressed frustration at the way Encore has managed its business in the nearly five years since it opened.
Despite being one of the top revenue casinos in the country, workers say Encore Boston Harbor’s wages lag behind industry standards. Martin pointed out that a Wynn Resort in Las Vegas pays higher wages to its employees than those at Encore Boston Harbor receive, in spite of the much higher cost of living in the Boston region.
UNITE HERE Local 26 serves members in Massachusetts and Rhode Island in the hotel, casino, airport and food service industries.