On February 2nd, workers in the Caesars Rewards department at Caesars Southern Indiana unanimously ratified their first Agreement. This Agreement brings the department into the existing Collective Bargaining Agreement and includes significant language additions unique to Caesars Rewards. This is an important milestone which marks the first new Caesars department to join the bargaining unit since the contract first went into effect in the early 2000s.
Economic highlights of the new agreement include significant increases in starting wages, with all current workers in the department having their wages increased to bring them ahead of the former. Increases for existing workers averaged $2.41 per hour and will result in employees earning approximately $100 dollars more on average in a typical 40-hour week.
“This will be life changing for these workers,” said Bryan Trafford, Local 89 organizer and co-chair of the union negotiating committee, who also came from the Slots Department at Caesars. “It’s very important to us that all workers earn a living wage, and this was a big step toward that for Caesars Rewards.”
In addition to the significant wage increases, these workers will now be covered under the existing CBA at the Hotel and Casino, which gives them access to affordable and quality union health insurance that will further improve their finances and general health.
There were several other important additions for the Caesars Rewards department, including strong language that adds recourse if they feel they are being harassed by a guest. While most guests are perfectly respectful, some unfortunately choose to cross lines they should not, causing this to be one of the most important issues these new members wanted addressed. This new language gives Caesars Rewards workers the right to turn a guest over to a member of management if they feel they are being harassed and allows them to step away from the guest counter and perform other work for up to fifteen minutes or until the unruly guest has been removed from the area. As Caesars Rewards workers are front-line customer service and work behind a counter, they historically have been unable to step away if they were being harassed – a contractual right they now have.
Although there were considerable victories in this agreement, they were by no means won easily. The Caesars Rewards department originally voted to join the Teamsters in June of 2021, and negotiations moved very slowly as the Company continually failed to address the biggest concerns the members had.
“Caesars Rewards is a small department and because of that the Company didn’t initially take negotiations very seriously,” said Stephen Piercey, Business Agent and chair for the union negotiating committee. “What they failed to understand is that these workers were Teamsters now. When you mess with one Teamster, you mess with all of us. Unfortunately, that was a lesson the Company had to learn the hard way.”
During the 2021 Stewards Leadership Conference, which was held at Caesars Southern Indiana, hundreds of Local 89 and Local 783 stewards signed a pledge to no longer patronize the Casino until Caesars Rewards workers were given a fair contract, and to ask their friends, families, and co-workers to do the same. This pledge was hand delivered to Company management on the floor of the casino mere moments later by a group of members, stewards, business agents, and officers that included a constant source of support - Chris Griswold, principal officer of Local 986 who represents Teamsters at casinos in Las Vegas, Nevada.
This marked the first of several escalating actions Teamsters Local 89 took to inform the Company that Caesars Rewards were ready to fight for a fair contract. These actions ultimately culminated in a historic moment – the very first unanimous strike authorization taken at Caesars Southern Indiana. The mounting pressure ultimately culminated in a frantic week of hard bargaining where the Company finally began putting real offers on the table.
“That was the closest we have ever come to a strike at Caesars Southern Indiana,” said Piercey. “Our committee members were fantastic, and our members in Rewards were amazing. They all stood together, and they were ready to hit the streets if that’s what it was going to take. Everything we won in this Agreement is a testament to what members can achieve when they stand together and refuse to back down from a fight.”
During the last session of negotiations, the committee and Company came to agreements on the above-mentioned wages and harassment but fell just short of completing the deal. The final hang up was the fact that the Company would not allow Caesars Rewards workers to accept tips from guests. This was seen as a matter of principle and respect by the members, who took issue with the fact that the Company actively prevented guests from rewarding them for their excellent work and customer service. In fact, the Company took a hard stance on this and stated they would never break from that position.
“When we couldn’t get that last piece, we told the Company we were done and we ended negotiations,” said Trafford. “The very next day the Company called and agreed to language allowing tips. This is something these workers have been trying to get for their entire careers, and now they have it because they joined the Teamsters and never surrendered.”
President Zuckerman and Secretary-Treasurer Thompson would like to thank Steward Alexes Neace and member Melissa Sillings for the knowledge and dedication they added to the union negotiating committee. Their efforts were instrumental in winning this fight, and they both did tremendous jobs at and away from the negotiating table. Special thanks as well to Organizer David Thornsberry, Business Agent Jay Dennis, and Vice President Jeff Cooper who each assisted throughout the long and arduous process.
From the Officers, Agents and Staff of Teamsters Local 89 – Congratulations to our new sisters and brothers in Caesars Rewards on their first agreement. Welcome to the Teamsters Local 89 family!