One company vying for the single license available for a Western Massachusetts casino has signed a labor agreement promising employees of a proposed resort the option of participating in collective bargaining. The so-called “neutrality agreement” is the first to be signed by any of the casino contenders.
Pioneer Valley AFL-CIO president Richard Scott says in 2011 Mohegan Sun agreed to hire unionized construction workers for the project’s proposed cite in Palmer. After that, he says, the organization wanted to ensure all of the more than 1,000 jobs the casino could create would be living wage positions. He says the agreement — signed after about a year of negotiations — allows employees to choose whether they want to join a union, and prevents Mohegan Sun from being able to intimidate employees who opt-in. Scott says for employees, that option means job security, among other things.
“It ensures that we can actually make them good jobs where you can support your family and pay taxes and buy cars and go to restaurants and make good communities.”
Scott says he hopes this kind of agreement will appeal to all of the casinos developers. But this sort of labor agreement isn’t standard procedure throughout New England. Mohegan Sun’s casino resort in Connecticut is just an hour and a half from Palmer. And CEO of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority — Mitchel Etess — says there, labor isn’t unionized. He says supporting organized labor in Western Massachusetts reflects the company’s understanding of the community.
“We’ve been here, we haven’t just kind of parachuted in once the legislation was done. We’ve been here building relationships. And this is another example of our understanding of the region. We know what makes this region click and what makes this region tick.”
Etess says he hopes the agreement will increase Mohegan Sun’s odds of being awarded the Western Massachusetts casino license.