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Secretary-Treasurer’s Report

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RICHARD BARRERA
Secretary-Treasurer

How did We get a Great New Contract for Viejas Workers? Members got Involved

As President Kasparian wrote about in his article, we’re now celebrating a great new four-year contract at Viejas Casino. Six months ago as we started to pull Viejas members together to talk about bargaining a new contract, we anticipated that we would have a major fight on our hands.

We assumed we would have a difficult negotiation. At those first membership meetings, a small but determined group of Viejas leaders made clear that we could only win a new contract if all of our members were willing to be heard. So we launched an intense campaign that involved three key strategies.

First, the initial group of leaders spent months in the casino talking to their coworkers about what they wanted to see in a new contract. We put together a bargaining survey and our leaders pushed their coworkers to fill the survey out.

By the time we began negotiations in early February, well over half of our 600 Viejas members had turned in bargaining surveys and had meaningful conversations with their coworkers and our organizers about what they prioritized in their new contract.

Second, we continued to have monthly membership meetings even though we were still months away from opening negotiations. More and more members attended these meetings, and the key issues that members wanted to fight for in the new contract became clear. These issues included fair wage increases, more holidays, protecting health care and the security of having a strong union in place.

From these meetings we launched our third strategy. A committed team of organizers led by Local 135 Lead Organizer Maribel Mckinze, our new organizer Andres Pinzon and a team of organizers from our International Union went door to door and had hundreds of conversations with our Viejas members in their homes.

By the time we began negotiations in early February, well over half of our 600 Viejas members had turned in bargaining surveys and had meaningful conversations with their coworkers and our organizers about what they prioritized in their new contract.

It was obvious in our first session with the company that Viejas management knew that our members were engaged and unified around our core issues. As a result, Viejas came to the table prepared to bargain in good faith, showed a willingness to listen to and fairly consider our proposals and maybe most importantly, expressed a desire to work together with the union and our members in making Viejas a great place to work. We even won a provision in the new contract that Union members would receive the same bonuses as everyone else in the future – a major point of contention over the last few years.

Great contracts aren’t created by magic. We had a skilled team of negotiators including President Kasparian and Viejas members at the bargaining table, but the truth is, the work that we had done outside of the bargaining table and in preparation for negotiations was the real reason we were able to win at the bargaining table.

Congratulations to our Viejas members for being strong and engaged over the past several months, and we look forward to engaging these strong Viejas members in our other upcoming bargaining fights including at Rite Aid this year and at Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons next year.