Union clues

What is the freakin’ problem over at the UAW? News Hits has been digging around to update you on the progress made, or lack thereof, regarding efforts to unionize workers at the Greektown Casino. Several casino employees, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of losing their jobs, told us their union representatives are nowhere close to an agreement on a contract and that employees aren’t happy about it. The employees blame this on an unwilling management team. But Greektown Casino spokesperson Roger Martin says that’s hogwash. Martin said the casino has been willing and ready to negotiate with a coalition of unions since early April. “We are absolutely committed to working toward an agreement,” Martin said. He added, “Hey, this is Detroit,” and that organized labor “has always been there for us. They have supported the casinos this whole time.” Martin pointed out that the casino officially recognized the Detroit Casino Council — a coalition of six unions — on April 3, paving the way for contract negotiations.

Maybe we’re naive, but we thought the UAW would be more than happy to clue us in on the talks. Were we ever wrong.

One UAW spokesman, who did not want to be named, said talks with Greektown Casino management began on Friday, but that no further information will be available until an agreement is on the table. UAW’s lead organizer at the casino, Joel Voyevich, took a more aggressive stance. After several messages were left with Voyevich, he called back and was inadvertently routed to the wrong voicemail message at this rag, saying the message — which described foods offered at a springtime Hamtramck festival — was greatly disturbing to him. “It seems you are not who you claim to be,” Voyevich growled, noting that, whatever our credentials, he doesn’t want to speak to any media at all. Geez! If the guy gets rattled by hooking into the wrong voicemail, what’s he like when negotiations turn tough?

Maybe this sheds light on why reps are just now sitting down at the table, 10 months after opening. MGM Grand employees signed their agreement with management in October 2000, about 15 months after the casino opened; Motor City Casino workers got their contract at the same time, about 10 months after that gambling hall opened. It’ll obviously be a longer wait at Greektown. For their part, a Teamsters representative was very willing to help update the Greektown situation, but even he wouldn’t tell us why it’s taken them so long to get to the table. So the “bad union PR” list grows.

Lisa M. Collins contributed to News Hits, which is edited by Curt Guyette. He can be reached at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]
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