ATLANTIC CITY NJ Feb 19 2008 – An election to unionize security workers at Tropicana Casino and Resort is getting a second chance, after a judge found that casino supervisors used “objectionable conduct” in their attempt to sway voters.
In a ruling Wednesday that followed an investigation by the National Labor Relations Board, Administrative Law Judge Paul Buxbaum supported some of the testimony by casino workers and members of the Security, Police and Fire Professionals of America, or SPFPA, who alleged Tropicana management allowed for unlawful surveillance and interrogated members. The judge ordered that a new election must be held.
The SPFPA was on the losing end of a 63-62 vote in October to organize about 134 security workers at Tropicana.
It first filed a complaint about Tropicana’s labor practices before the election.
In his ruling, Buxbaum said.
Casino supervisors exhibited a pattern of “close and intimidating surveillance” when members passed out literature outside of the building or held other solicitation activity.
n A supervisor prior to election day told workers that if they voted against the union, Columbia Sussex Corp., then-operator of the casino, would look favorably on their department’s personnel.
n The one-vote margin was a factor in recommending a second election – any misconduct by the casino could have influenced voters, easily reversing the election’s outcome.
The ruling also spotlighted some of the alleged tactics and statements made to security workers. They included supervisors sending memos that said the union had “nothing to offer but empty promises and a hand in your pocket” and anti-union employees who said a union victory would result in the loss of vacation, personal and sick days.
Statements like those were disputed by the casino and anti-union employees in testimony, with some employees saying they were just repeating rumors.
It’s unclear whether Tropicana will appeal the decision, which must be done by Feb. 27. A Tropicana spokeswoman declined to comment Monday.
Hud Englehart, a spokesman for Columbia Sussex, also declined to comment.
Columbia Sussex was denied a gaming license by the New Jersey Casino Control Commission in December, following a list of complaints and violations about the way it conducted business.
Steve Maritas, a union organizer, also provided testimony to the NLRB, saying he was watched constantly as he passed out literature, bumper stickers and T-shirts to employees. The board’s decision is a boost to the SPFPA, which is based in Roseville, Mich., and represents 30,000 workers nationwide.
“It’s always good news when you have an election like this overturned,” Maritas said Monday. “We just found out the ruling today. We were confident we would get another election.”
Tropicana, in the past, has made its position on unions known by leaving out anti-union materials and creating a Web site.
But two bids to unionize by the United Auto Workers received wide support at the casino last year: Dealers voted in favor 626-157, while slot technicians voted in favor 19-2.
The UAW last month began contract talks with Tropicana. Dealers and slot technicians cited job security as a main priority, after Columbia Sussex laid off about 900 employees when it took the casino over in January 2007.
About two weeks ago, the state-appointed conservator in charge of finding a new owner for the casino said formal bids to prospective buyers were being sent out this month.
Maritas said he was unsure how the election process at Tropicana will be handled while a new owner must still be determined.
“It’s better than having Columbia running it, but I don’t know what they (the state) are going to do,” he said.
If an appeal isn’t filed, a date for another election will be set by the NLRB’s regional director. That could happen as early as three weeks, Maritas said.
The SPFPA is planning organizing drives at all of Atlantic City’s casinos. A win at the Tropicana would be its second, after an election at Bally’s Atlantic City in June proved successful.
“We believe we’re going to win here a second time around,” Maritas said.
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