Workers strike at Encore set for July 1 after vote

By Josh Resnek

Encore Casino. (Photo by Joe Resnek)

Casino workers at Encore have voted to go on strike July 1.

Nine hundred and sixty three union workers voted in favor of a strike, and 13 voted no.

With a deadline of June 30, Encore casino workers who are in unions have overwhelmingly voted in favor of striking the gaming colossus.

They are seeking what they refer to as a “five-star contract” at the resort.

Unless an agreement is reached by Friday, June 30, at midnight, the strike will go into effect.

The strike was given the Ok by a vote of two unions representing approximately 1,400 workers – UNITE HERE Local 26 and Teamsters Local 25.

Carlos Aramayo, president of UNITE HERE Local 26, re- minded workers what they are fighting for last week telling B them that “a five star contract with five star wages, five star benefits, and five star job security is what we want by mid- night June 30 – we’re going to strike Encore Boston Harbor until we get it done.”

In a press release, shared by multiple media outlets including NBC10 Boston, Encore bar porter David Hernandez said

“This means we spend less time with our families,” Hernandez continued. “The company calls us the ‘Five-Star Team’ but that just means we are doing all the hard work so that the casino can maintain its Forbes Five-Star rating.”

In an emailed statement, Michael Weaver, spokesperson for Wynn Resorts, which owns the casino, said “Encore has been actively bargaining in good faith with Unite Local 26 and Teamsters Local 2 since early March, with the goal of providing our employees with competitive wages, benefits and a working environment that reflects our high standards and the experience we strive to create. We have provided a proposal that directly addresses the union’s request for compensation market parity.”

As was noted by Weaver, Encore has apparently been bargaining in good faith with the unions since March in the hope of resolving the issues raised by the union membership.

A waiting game about strike on the gaming floor at Encore. (Photo by Joe Resnek)

The workers are fighting for increased wages and benefits at the Everett property that would put them on par with the other unionized hotel employees in the city. The previous Encore contract was settled during the pandemic, which crippled the hospitality industry and shut down the Encore for four months. Given the state of the world, the unions agreed to a short contract with generous health care benefits but without the pension plan and legal, education, training, and housing benefits available to other union hotel workers, union officials said — with the intention of going back to the bargaining table in two years,” according to the Boston Globe.

Now the five-star Encore Boston Harbor, which was opened by Las Vegas gambling giant Wynn Resorts in 2019, is thriving. Last year it generated $729.7 million in total gaming revenue, the third-highest grossing commercial casino outside of Nevada, the Globe added.

“The workers there deserve the same wages, benefits, and work rules that every other unionized hospitality worker in the city of Boston has,” said Carlos Aramayo, president of Unite Here Local 26, which represents 1,200 of the workers threatening to strike.

The contract also covers 200 Encore drivers and warehouse workers with Teamsters Local 25. “Given the extraordinary revenue that this property has made over the last several years, there should no reason that we can’t reach a quick settlement.”

Teamsters drivers who deliver food, alcohol, and other supplies to the casino have pledged not to cross the picket line if the Encore workers go on strike.

Wynn Resorts spokesman Weaver said Encore aims to provide employees with “competitive wages, benefits, and a working environment that reflects our high standards and the experience we strive to create. We have provided a proposal that directly addresses the union’s request for compensation market parity,” according to the Globe.

Along with improved wages and benefits, workers are calling on Encore to do away with a points system that penalizes workers when they are even a minute late, according to the union, or call out sick if they’ve used up their allotted sick time. Housekeeper Durga Nepal said she was penalized when her bus got stuck in traffic, causing her to arrive to work 15 minutes late, and one of her friends ended up in the emergency room after she came to work sick to keep from getting points. Nepal, 40, took a pay cut when she left the InterContinental Boston hotel to work at the casino, which is closer to her house in Somerville but pays $2 an hour less than the $27 rate other union hotel housekeepers make, according to the Globe.

Weaver said employees can be late 28 times in a year before they can be fired — provided they haven’t also been penalized for taking extra sick days — and its proposal to the union is “even more generous.” Attendance points aren’t issued in circumstances such as extreme weather or road closures, he said.

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