Wednesday, March 31, 2010

TWO WORKERS AT STOP AND SHOP

One Sunday morning awhile back, I went to a Stop and Shop in the area to purchase the Sunday newspaper and to purchase a couple of hard rolls to make some egg sandwiches.

There were no hard rolls in the case, so I asked a bakery worker for some rolls. She took them right off a warm tray and gave them to me. Then I picked up a newspaper off the news stand.

I then got on the only line with a cashier and her bagger (helper). Both woman were up in years (not young kids), probably in their fifties. I waited, as the guy in front of me, purchased his large order. They bagged his order and sent him on his way with pleasant smiles.

As the woman was doing my little order (4 rolls and 1 newspaper), we talked. She said people are always telling her, that she should be thankful, she has a job. I told the woman, people don't know what they are talking about. She said that Stop and Shop had cut back on the employees heath benefits and pensions, etc. The employee said she had worked for Stop and Shop for over thirty years.

Then she told me how she had started working one day at 8:00 A.M. and she didn't get a break. At 1:00 P.M., she asked to go to lunch, she was told, that there was only two cashiers and she would have to wait until relief came in. I said, I thought we are in Connecticut. Don't they have to give you a break after two hours and lunch (1/2 hour) after four (4) hours of work? She said, YES, they do but they didn't that day. This is a union shop.

These are good, hard working, honest people who aren't getting a fair shake. On the other side of the coin, companies are working short handed, to keep costs down to be competitive. It is a tough economic world we live in.

How many seniors, who have retired, just can't make it on their Social Security Retirement? How many Seniors are going back to work to survive? Are the conditions, that the workers at Stop and Shop and other places experiencing, the wave of the future? How good do the workers at the Mohegan Sun Casino and the Mohegan Tribal Government have it?

HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE OUT OF WORK?

Until you walk in the other persons moccasins, how can you feel and understand what they are experiencing? What do you think?

EDITORIAL FOOTNOTE: The workers at Stop and Shop are the best. Shopping at Stop and Shop is always a pleasant experience. The stores are great. What do you think?

WHERE DO MASHPEE WAMPANOAG'S WANT A CASINO?

Tribe mum on casino plans for Middleboro
March 31, 2010

MASHPEE — More than a month has passed since Middleboro officials asked the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe for some reassurance that their deal to bring a resort casino to town is still secure, but the tribe has yet to respond.

"Nothing so far," said Middleboro Town Manager Charles Cristello on Monday.

At the end of February, Middleboro selectmen ended their silence on published reports that the tribe was talking to Fall River officials about moving its Indian casino to that city. In 2007, Middleboro voters approved an agreement to allow the tribe to site a casino in town on 539 acres in exchange for $7 million per year and $250,000 in infrastructure improvements.

With those plans stalled by several hurdles, Middleboro selectmen wrote their letter asking tribe leaders to clarify their intentions.

Tribal council chairman Cedric Cromwell and vice chairman Aaron Tobey did not return calls seeking comment Monday.

GEORGE BRENNAN

Thursday, March 25, 2010

CAR POOLING FOR FOXWOODS WORKERS?

Rideshare explores 'vanpools' to casino
By Brian Hallenbeck
Publication: The Day
Published 03/25/2010 12:00 AM

Mashantucket - A transportation company is trying to organize "vanpools" for Foxwoods Resort Casino employees affected by Foxwoods' plan to curtail employee shuttle-bus service between the casino and commuter parking lots in Groton, North Stonington and Stonington.

The Rideshare Co., a Windsor-based nonprofit, dispatched Kris Tower, an account manager, to the casino, where she met with employees and distributed information Tuesday while manning a table set up in the Great Cedar Hotel.

Rideshare supplies Easy Street commuter vans throughout Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

"We took down names and information from people to see if we can match them up," Tower said Wednesday. "About 150 to 200 people showed interest."

Foxwoods has announced that as of May 1 it will discontinue shuttle service from its Midway Lot on Industrial Drive in Groton and, during the week, from Route 2 commuter lots adjacent to Interstate 95 in North Stonington and west of Route 78 in Stonington. Foxwoods management said it will help employees explore alternative means of transportation.

According to Tower, Rideshare can provide vans for groups of employees who have the same work schedules. It can dedicate a seven-seat minivan to groups of at least six employees, one of whom would drive the van and hang on to the keys. The van would make one round trip a day and would be left overnight in a commuter lot.

Rideshare, which also has 12- and 15-seaters, provides vans for many Connecticut workers who commute to Electric Boat, Pfizer, the Naval Submarine Base and the Army National Guard among other locations.

"It really depends on the employees' schedules," Tower said. "We don't use the vans as shuttles. They're dedicated to a group with the same work hours. It's always the same commuters in the van."

Given the range of shifts worked by Foxwoods employees, it will be a challenge to find groups of employees with the same hours, Tower said. Foxwoods will help match up workers for whom car-pooling is a better option, she said.

Easy Street van drivers must be at least 21 and have a five-year history of safe driving. Each commuter pays a monthly fee, Tower said, with Rideshare covering maintenance and insurance costs. Each driver is given a gas card.

Employers can arrange to have their employees pay with pre-tax dollars.
b.hallenbeck@theday.com

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

FOXWOODS TO END SHUTTLE SERVICE FOR WORKERS?

Foxwoods to end shuttle service for many workers starting May 1
By Brian Hallenbeck
Publication: The Day
Published 03/23/2010 12:00 AM
;
Tribe says decision based on sluggish economy

Foxwoods Resort Casino employees who rely on shuttle buses to get to and from their jobs are none too happy about having to make other arrangements.

Casino management informed employees last week that starting May 1 it will discontinue shuttle service from Foxwoods' Midway Lot on Industrial Drive in Groton and during the week from Route 2 commuter lots adjacent to Interstate 95 in North Stonington and west of Route 78 in Stonington.

Foxwoods says it will help employees deal with the changes by setting up meetings on alternative transportation and by allowing employees who start driving to work to park in the casino's Great Cedar Garage and in the MGM Grand at Foxwoods lot.

Peter Pan buses have long operated around the clock between the casinos and lots in Groton, North Stonington, Norwich and Stonington. Service to the lot on Route 2 in Norwich will continue.
UAW at Foxwoods, the union representing 2,500 table-games dealers at the casinos, has filed a grievance over the shuttle-service changes, suggesting the union's contract addresses transportation for employees.

Neither the union nor Foxwoods would comment on the grievance Monday.
In a memo dated March 15, Michael Speller, president of the Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Enterprise, the tribal entity that operates the casinos, attributes the cutbacks to economic conditions.

"Due to the pressure on our business over the last 18 months our employee levels are back to pre-MGM levels and in order to keep our business costs under control we must take certain measures to help preserve jobs and remain competitive in this environment," Speller says in the memo, which is posted at the lots in four languages.

MGM Grand opened in May 2008
.
A Foxwoods employee waiting for a bus Monday morning at the North Stonington lot said employees were "disgusted" with the reduction in service. The employee, who declined to give his name, said many commuters would face a serious hardship.

The Groton lot, which Foxwoods owns, is located in the Poquonnock Bridge section of town adjacent to an Amtrak maintenance facility. Two Foxwoods employees waiting at the lot Monday said many of the employees who take the shuttle do not have cars. One of the employees - both declined to give a name - said he adjusted his schedule so he could take a SEAT bus to the shuttle lot.

"We work 24/7, all different kinds of shifts," the employee said. "We need this. Other forms of public transportation are too expensive. You know what a cab costs?"

The employees said the shuttle buses used to run every 15 minutes but now stop at the lot every 45 minutes.

According to Speller's memo, shuttle service from the North Stonington and Stonington lots will continue on weekends, operating from 6 a.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Monday. Employees may continue to park in all of the lots and car-pool from them.

Employees with at least 10 years of service at Foxwoods can apply for parking passes that will enable them to park at any time in Foxwoods' Great Cedar Garage. Those with less seniority and vendors will be able to park in the Great Cedar Garage during the week and in the MGM lot, which is about a mile from the casino on Route 2, from 10 a.m. Friday until 10 p.m. Sunday.
According to the memo, Foxwoods' human resources will be arranging meetings between the affected employees and "representatives from alternative transportation options such as East Street (a commuter van service) and other car-pooling options ..."

Peter Pan Bus Lines, based in Springfield, Mass., has provided buses and drivers for the Foxwoods shuttles since the inception of the service in the early 1990s, according to Joanne Berwald, the company's senior director of human resources.

"We don't have the full details yet, so we don't know how it's going to impact our employees," Berwald said of the cutbacks in service. "The good news is that in many instances, we may be able to find the affected drivers other employment within the organization. We have a fairly robust charter service in Connecticut and we could transfer them to the charter side

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

TRANSPORTATION MOHEGAN STYLE

This is the story of two events that involved, transportation and the effect it had on tribal workers and visitors to the Mohegan Sun.

The first involve a person who took a Grey Hound Bus to the Mohegan Sun, on their way to visit family in Connecticut. He left the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City to the Mohegan Sun Casino (Uncasville, Connecticut). The person purchased a ticket to go to the casino. There were signs telling people to go to Atlantic City and the packages available to the bus riders. There were no posters for the Mohegan Sun Casino or Foxwoods Resort Casino.

The person boarded the bus, enjoyed the trip and ended up at the bus terminal at Mohegan Sun. Other passengers got out of the bus and received free vouchers for free play and the buffet (food ticket). The person asked for the free play and buffet ticket. He was told he didn't get the right ticket. He asked, how would someone know what to do when there are no advertisements in the terminal in N.Y.C., to tell him what to do. Another case of the Mohegan sun worker doing what they were told to do, and sending a possible patron off with a bad taste in their mouths. Poor Business. Not very smart. What do you think?

The other event, is about the famed Electric Chair cars (Ford Escape Hybrids). The Mohegan Tribal Government used them in different departments, including Public Safety and the Mohegan Police Department.

Allegedly, a Public Safety Officer (Security)was driving on Route 32 in Uncasville, when the steering locked up. The Public Safety Officer didn't hit anyone and safely got to the side of the road. More problems, remember, the alleged problems I have talked about in other articles.

Should the Mohegan Tribal Government continue to buy these cars? Are the cars a potential safety hazard for our (the Mohegan Tribe) workers? Should we purchase something else? Didn't the government recently purchase two new Ford Escape Hybrids, to replace two cars removed from service? What do you think?

Monday, March 22, 2010

WILL CARCUERI V. SALAZAR AFFECT THE SHINNECOCKS?

Potential Shinnecock gaming sites far from reservationFriday, March 19, 2010

As the Shinnecock Nation of New York heads towards federal recognition, the tribe is looking for potential sites for a casino.

The tribe has expressed interest in the Aqueduct Racetrack and Belmont Park Raceway. But The Queens Chronicle notes that Aqueduct is more than 85 miles from the tribe's reservation on Long Island while Belmont is more than 75 miles away.

The distance could pose a problem because regulations finalized by the Bush administration place some restrictions on newly recognized tribes. Although the rule does not contain a strict mileage limit, it suggests that the proposed gaming site be within 25 miles of tribal headquarters.

Separately, the tribe may have to overcome issues raised by the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Carcieri v. Salazar, which restricts the land-into-trust process to tribes that were "under federal jurisdiction" in 1934. The tribe's recognition won't be finalized until this summer.

SENECA'S ASK OBAMA TO VETO CIGARETTES IN THE MAIL BILL

Seneca Nation asks Obama to veto cigarette mailing bill Friday, March 19, 2010

The bill prohibits the U.S. Postal Service from delivering cigarettes and certain tobacco products, effectively killing the tribal tobacco industry. It effectively kills the tribal tobacco industry.

“If signed into law, the PACT Act will seriously impact the Seneca Nation and the Seneca people,” President Barry E. Snyder Sr. said in a letter to Obama, The Buffalo News reported. “We will be subject to racial profiling for the simple act of mailing a package. We will lose thousands of jobs and important health care support. And most damaging, we will be set back in our journey to self-determination by the very treaty partner that pledged to support and protect us.”

Obama is expected to sign the bill, the paper said.

EDITORIAL FOOTNOTE: This article produced a great many thoughts, emotions, and opinions that I would like to share with you.

First, is the purpose of this legislation to take away income from the Native American tribes involved? Are the tribes keeping the Federal and local governments from collecting taxes? Are smokers avoiding paying taxes by ordering their tobacco products through the mail? Is this bill about tax monies?

Don't Native American tribal nations have a right to generate revenue to provide for their governments, which it turn provide services for their members (citizens)? Would the Federal government instead provide these services? How much would this cost the American tax payer? Is this a form of discrimination?

What about the smokers rights? This is not about second hand smoke, this is about the right to smoke. Aren't they entitled to purchase tobacco products online? Just about anything, one would want, can be purchased online. Why not tobacco?

Is this tobacco industry making large profits for people who are running these business or is it providing jobs for Native Americans and income to the tribal governments? Who is getting rich? Is anyone getting rich?

I believe that everything, on earth, was created by Mundu for a purpose. I'm not quite sure what tobacco was made for, but there is some purpose. In Native American culture, tobacco is given as gifts and used in ceremonies. It is a spiritual thing. It is considered the greatest gift one can give, in Native American culture. The very thing that is spiritual is being challenged.

Recently, it is alleged, that when Lynn Malerba was announced as the new Chief of the Mohegan Tribe, she would not give tobacco to the Nonners or Sagamores. She allegedly believes, as a medical professional (nurse), that giving tobacco is the wrong thing to do. She instead, gave corn, which is also a special gift. It took great conviction, to do what she did. A courageous stance. However tribal members I have talked to, wonder how will she be able to perform her duties as chief, if she doesn't accept the old teachings? One tribal member suggested, she use red cedar which was the custom of native people in the north east. I don't believe this should be a problem. Is she doing the right thing by the tribe?

The last thought, is about the United States Postal Service. With many things being done over the Internet, there is less and less need to use their services. Examples, would be, banking, purchasing products and paying bills. Things that were done almost exclusively by the Postal Service in the past. The Postal Service seems to do less business and keeps charging more and more for their services (stamps). Can these tobacco industries, based on reservations, use other methods to ship their products? What do you think?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

THE POLL

HOW FREQUENTLY DO YOU READ A PRINT VERSION OF A NEWSPAPER?

.........................Ages 18-49.........................50-plus............

DAILY.......................20%................................42%............

2-3 times a weeK......20%.................................17%.................

WEEKENDS ONLY....21%..................................12%................
..........
DON'T READ............39%.................................29%...............
(newspapers)

WHICH OF THE FOLLOWING WAYS DO YOU MOST PREFER TO GET THE NEWS?

PRINT NEWSPAPERS......19%.....................35%................

ONLINE...............................34%.....................16%.................

TELEVISION......................52%......................69%...............

RADIO..................................20%.....................22%...............

DON'T KNOW........................2%........................1%.................

POLL TAKEN FROM AARP BULLETIN, MARCH 2010 ISSUE

The older adult population seems to be more familar with television, radio and the print media. However the population below 50 seems to be more at ease with the internet. What do you think?

Friday, March 19, 2010

COULD SHINNECOCKS END UP AT BELMONT?

Is a Shinnecock-run racino in the works?
by Stephen Geffon, Chronicle Contributor
03/18/2010

Now that Aqueduct Entertainment Group has been disqualified from developing a racino at Aqueduct Race Track, the Shinnecock Indian Nation — with expected federal recognition just around the corner — may be setting its sights on the Ozone Park track or nearby Belmont Park in Elmont, LI.

Shinnecock spokeswoman Beverly Jensen said the Long Island tribe is interested in a casino, but the location isn’t set yet. “We are looking at any place and we are looking at all places, including Aqueduct and Belmont,” she said.

In October 2007 the Shinnecocks prepared an ambitious casino proposal for Aqueduct, a $1.4 billion project which included 490,000 feet of gambling space, 350 card tables, 10,500 slot machines, 12,000 employees and a 1,200-room hotel. The Aqueduct proposal estimated a full-size casino would bring in $2.1 billion annually.

The city and state would share 25 percent from the $1.5 billion generated annually by the casino’s slot machines, and added tax revenues. The plan has been gathering dust on a shelf, according to Tom Shields, a spokesman for Michigan-based Gateway Casino Resorts, the Shinnecocks’ partner in the project.

But now with Aqueduct set to be re-bid, the tribe may just dust off their plan. State Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) said he had met with representatives of the Shinnecock tribe in the summer of 2009, at which time they expressed an interest in Aqueduct and presented two plans to him. One included a casino and horse racing; the other eliminated racing entirely.

Addabbo said he does not support the Shinnecocks developing a casino at Aqueduct because, unlike the other bidders who would rent the land, the state would have to sell it to the tribe, where, as owners, they could develop it as they see fit and close the race track if they so desired.

Addabbo said that owning Aqueduct Race Track would just be a hindrance to the Shinnecocks. “They don’t want to do horse racing, they want a full-fledged casino,” Addabbo said. “Obviously, this is not what we would be looking for.”

Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) said he would reserve judgment on the Shinnecocksracino proposal at Aqueduct. He said promises of job creation and the generation of billions of dollars annually does not necessarily translate into revitalizing the area or the surrounding community. “There are a lot of pros but there are a lot of cons,” Ulrich said. “Any decision would have to come under extensive community review.”

If Aqueduct is not a possibility, Belmont Park would appear to be a good bet for the Shinnecocks since State Sen. Minority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) supports its redevelopment.

Scott Reif, a spokesman for Skelos, said the senator would like to have video lottery terminals at Belmont and see it turned into a first-class tourist destination.

According to Reif, Skelos sees no problem with Aqueduct and Belmont casinos successfully operating at the same time because they would each cater to different markets, with Aqueduct having just VLTs and Belmont featuring a full spectrum of gaming.

Addabbo agreed, saying the two venues could coexist if each offers different gaming. But the Shinnecock’s road to developing a casino off the tribe’s reservation is laden with obstacles. First, it is rare for the federal government to grant permission for an off-reservation casino. There is also a requirement that tribal gambling operations be built within 75 miles of reservation land.

The Shinnecock reservation is located on the east end of LI, a little more than 75 miles from Belmont and more than 85 miles from Aqueduct.

Although other tribes have opened casinos off-reservation by using “land trusts” arranged with the U.S. Department of the Interior, a Supreme Court decision in February 2009 bars tribes recognized after 1934 from entering into such trusts. Legislation is pending before Congress to overturn the court ruling.

The Shinnecocks would also have to negotiate an agreement with the state to develop anything other than the smaller video gaming facilities federally recognized tribes are entitled to operate.

In the meantime, the state’s lottery division is set to oversee the selection of another bidder for Aqueduct.

With AEG out of the running, the remaining bidders are SL Green Realty with Hard Rock International, the Peebles Corporation with MGM Mirage, Penn National Gaming and Aqueduct Gaming with partners Delaware North, Saratoga Gaming and McKissack and McKissack.
©Queens Chronicle 2010

EDITORIAL FOOTNOTE: It seems apparent to me that, 1) the Shinnecock Indian Tribe will soon get Federal Recognition, 2) they will open a casino, the question is WHERE? and 3) how will this effect the Mohegan Sun Casino?

The QUESTION, tribal members should be asking is, WHAT IS THE MTGA DOING ABOUT THE SITUATION? What do you think?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

ARE NEW YORK JOBS THREATENED BY NEW LEGISLATION?

New York tribe says cigarette mailing ban threatens jobs
By The Associated Press
March 17, 2010, 7:34PM

BUFFALO, N.Y. — A vote by Congress to keep cigarettes out of the mail was a “sucker punch” to treaty rights, the president of the New York tribe that dominates the now-threatened mail-order market said Wednesday.

The House passed the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking — or PACT — Act with a 387-25 vote less than a week after the U.S. Senate approved it by unanimous consent. It now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature.

Supporters say it will make it harder for kids to light up and stop smokers from dodging state taxes. But Indian leaders see it as an attempt by the government to gain control over tribes and their economies.

“This is a sucker punch to our federal treaty rights,” Seneca Nation President Barry Snyder Sr. said. “This is a direct assault on our economy and our people. And it will have a devastating ripple effect on the Western New York economy.”

While numerous tribes sell tobacco products around the country, the Senecas have the most at stake, with dozens of Web sites offering cigarettes at discount prices unaffected by state’s $2.75-per-pack excise tax and 4 percent sales tax.

The post office has been the primary means of delivery since UPS, DHL and FedEx agreed with the New York Attorney General several years ago not to ship cigarettes nationwide
.
The western New York tribe’s tobacco business accounts for about half of its $1.1 billion economy, said Snyder, who said tribes around the country and the National Congress of American Indians had rallied in support of the Senecas against the bill.

But in the end, lobbying efforts in Washington and at home — including a billboard along a New York highway warning the act threatened 1,000 Indian and non-Indian jobs in the state — changed few minds.

The result will be a reining in of cigarette sales by reservations, said Lance Morgan, a Winnebago Indian who runs a tribal corporation that buys and sells Native American goods. “The businesses will become marginalized and very localized, and most reservations are in the middle of nowhere,” Morgan said. “It will go back to being a very small piece of what you do.”

More than 20 tribes had written to senators seeking a hearing on the effects of the bill, he said. “There are plenty of tribes who are concerned about this,” he said.

Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., said New York alone loses as much as $1 billion a year from cigarette tax evasion. Weiner sponsored the measure with Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas.

The measure also will make it easier for states to sue out-of-state sellers in federal court and give the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives added authority to enter premises to investigate trafficking violations.

EDITORIAL FOOTNOTE: Could this bill, mean a loss of jobs on New York reservations? Who is profiting from the sales? Are the tribes or is it the owners of the smoke shops? Could a dispute happen in the future, like the one that allegedly happened on the native American reservation in Rhode Island? What do you think?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

FEBRUARY SLOT REVENUE FOR THE TWO CONNECTICUT CASINOS

Weather bogs down slot revenue
Casinos report
By WILLIAM SOKOLIC

For The Norwich Bulletin
Posted Mar 15, 2010 @ 11:19 PM

A stormy February helped keep slot win down 7.7 percent at Mohegan Sun compared to the same month a year ago.

The casino won $58 million, down from $62.8 million in 2009, according to figures released today to the Connecticut Division of Special Revenue. Handle — the amount of money wagered in slots — was just about flat. Free slot play inflates the handle results.

Foxwoods Resort Casino and MGM Grand at Foxwoods reported that slot revenue for the month of February was $51.6 million, a decrease of 11.1 percent in slot win compared to February, 2009. Slot handle fell 9.9 percent.

Mohegan Sun paid the state $14.5 million for February. The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, Foxwoods’ owner, reported a $13.4 million payment to the state. These contributions represent 25 percent of the slot win.

“The GDP indicates that we’ve bounced off the trough of the Great Recession, but it’s not likely that the performance of any service or retail industry will improve until unemployment rates decline, personal income and home values increase, and consumer confidence returns to non-recessionary levels,” said Clyde W. Barrow, Ph.D., director of the Center for Policy Analysis at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Magazine.

The numbers, though, aren’t as bad as they seem, said Mitchell Etess, CEO of Mohegan Sun. Mohegan Sun retained the lead in market share in Connecticut.

“The numbers were negatively impacted by the weather,” Etess said. This was especially true for feeder markets like New York, which got hammered by more snow than Connecticut, he said.Despite the less than adequate showing in slot win, Foxwoods and MGM Grand at Foxwoods continue to experience hotel occupancy rates at or near 100 percent. Throughout January and February, more than 1 million people were on the property, even with the economy still not recovered.

“While our February results have seen a decline, we are optimistic about the coming months,” said Michael Speller, president of Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Enterprises.Analyst Roger Gros points a finger at the weather. “It’s the same as Atlantic City for February. I expect single digit declines in both areas in March,” said Gros, publisher of Global Gaming Business.
Copyright 2010 Norwich Bulletin.

EDITORIAL FOOTNOTE: Even though I don't think free play is a good idea, because it takes away from the bottom line, in this economic condition the casinos find themselves in, it's probably a very good idea. At least it looks like the casinos are fighting for their market share. What do you think?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

UAW AND FOXWOODS MAKE A CONTRACT


UAW Brokers First Union Contract Under Tribal Law
By Harriet Jones

Published March 14, 2010 12:01 AM

American Indian casinos are big business in the United States, with an estimated 280,000 people employed across more than 400 sites.

That huge workforce is largely unorganized. Only a few such casinos recognize union contracts. Among them is North America's largest gaming center, Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut.
Its dealers recently struck a deal after a lengthy dispute with the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe. What makes this agreement different is that it was brokered under tribal law.
Unionizing Casinos

Denise Gladue has been a blackjack dealer at Foxwoods Resort Casino for 15 years. She's among the vast majority of Foxwoods workers who are not tribal members. Back in the day, she says, it was a great place to work, but in late 2006 that began to change.

With the start of the recession more than two years ago, casinos across the country were struggling, and so were their employees.

"It just made a lot of us upset and angry that we were losing these good benefits that we had when the company was still making money," Gladue says.

So in 2007, a majority of the 2,500 table game dealers at Foxwoods' two casinos took a vote. They joined the United Auto Workers.

Unions have set their sights on the casino industry in general, and the UAW has had some luck organizing in non-tribal gaming operations. But when the dealers tried to negotiate with their employer, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, it would have none of it.

Officially recognized American Indian tribes are sovereign nations, not subject to many federal laws including, for 30 years, the National Labor Relations Act. But that changed in 2007 when a federal court ruled against the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians from California.

The ruling said that federal labor laws did apply to American Indian gaming operations because they employ a large number of non-American Indians. Tribes everywhere saw this as a huge erosion of sovereignty. Jackson King, who is general counsel to the Mashantuckets, says the tribe wanted to find a creative solution to that standoff. The tribe proposed that while both sides preserve their rights under federal law, the talks actually be convened under tribal law.

"Certainly when this was first brought up to the union, they thought it was ridiculous," King says. "And certainly the National Labor Relations Board — they said, 'Look, we don't know anything about Indian tribes — how you guys operate, or what your institutions are.' So it was educational. It was historical. And it was groundbreaking."

'Win-Win' Deal

The two sides finally struck a deal last month. The contract gives the dealers a 12-percent raise over two years and a new system for distributing tips. It also allows casual dealers to become part-time employees with benefits. For management, the contract provides cost controls at a time when gaming has been hit hard by the recession.

"It really did feel very much like a win-win [with] respect and acknowledgment of tribal sovereignty, and at the same time having a legal framework that did protect employee rights," says Elizabeth Bunn, secretary-treasurer of the UAW.

The tribal law mirrors federal law closely, but with one major difference — the union has given up its right to strike and instead has agreed to binding arbitration. Bunn sees that as a plus.
"Interestingly in this case we would argue that tribal law is ahead of, more progressive than, federal labor law, at least for first contracts," Bunn says. "In fact we're advocating a legislative change at the federal level that would in fact have a similar provision."

The UAW now hopes to apply the tribal law solution to other casinos where the union is trying to organize. The Mashantuckets say many tribes have asked about the contract, but labor relations remain a very sensitive issue. Deron Marquez was chairman of the San Manuel tribe when the critical 2007 labor ruling came down. He says the Connecticut tribe has achieved something unusual.
"The [Mashantucket] Pequots were able to take a decision handed down by the D.C. Circuit, that was catastrophic, and find a way to reinsert its sovereign status into that labor relations realm," Marquez says.

At Foxwoods, Gladue says after years of uncertainty, she's pleased with the contract.
"I feel better, I feel more secure," she says.

Friday, March 12, 2010

UNKECHAUG AND CIGARETTES

Native American Cigarette Industry is Being Crushed

Government and Big Tobacco make Native Americans the low man on the totem pole
By Jed Morey on Mar 11th, 2010

Tucked away along a waterway in Mastic, Long Island is Poospatuck, the smallest Indian reservation in New York State. It means “Where the water meets” and is home to 400 enrolled members of the Unkechaug tribe of Native Americans. It’s difficult to discern where exactly the reservation begins and ends. There are no visible signs to guide your way, no glow from a towering casino to mark the spot. Once you happen upon Poospatuck, however, there’s no mistaking you have arrived.

Large billboards advertising native-brand cigarettes adorn the fa├žades of several homes converted to tobacco shops and traffic moves briskly in and out of parking areas. People are finding their way here for one reason only: cheap cigarettes.

Harry Wallace is the elected chief of the Unkechaug Nation who has found himself at the center of one of the largest controversies facing Indian nations today. He is also the owner of Poospatuck Smoke Shop, a bustling retail enterprise nestled in a wooded area deep within the reservation. Hanging boldly from the deck of the quaint wood shop on Wallace’s property is a sign that reads “Sovereignty Yes, Taxes No.”

Behind the shop is an office where Wallace conducts the business of his enterprise and the tribe. On the right side of the office is a wall of legal books that remind visitors that Wallace is not just an entrepreneur but a lawyer, a skill that has proven vital to the survival of Poospatuck. As I enter, he is talking to his staff and admits to being slightly irritable due to a strict diet and having recently kicked the caffeine habit.

“I’m trying to take care of my health,” he says

CONNECTICUT KENO?

Editorial: Don't fight with Connecticut tribes over KenoMonday, March 8, 2010

"Connecticut may be desperate, but not so desperate that it has to plug a considerable chunk of its budget shortfall with a new game of chance.

Whether keno is determined to be a lottery or casino pastime - a debate under way between the state and its two casino operators - it's a lousy way to raise revenues.

Adding keno could also jeopardize the existing revenue stream and current good relations the state has with the two casino operators - the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Indian tribes.
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The tribes contend that keno is not a lottery, but a casino game, as spelled out in federal law governing gambling on American Indian reservations. Furthermore, they maintain that their compacts with the state prohibit keno competition off the reservations.

Why pick a fight with the two casinos that contributed $378 million in slot machine earnings to state coffers last year?"

Thursday, March 4, 2010

MALERBA THE NEW CHIEF

Mohegan Tribe To Name New Chief Today
Associated Press
March 4, 2010

UNCASVILLE - The Mohegan Indian tribe's Council of Elders is naming Lynn Malerba as chief of the tribe, making her the first woman to hold the post in more than 300 years.The Day of New London reports that the council will announce Malerba's appointment Thursday morning.

The tribe runs the Mohegan Sun casino in southeastern Connecticut.Malerba is currently chairman of the nine-member Mohegan Tribal Council and will step down from that seat in August.

She told The Day Wednesday night that it's an incredible honor to represent the entire tribal family as chief, and an incredible responsibility.

he chief's job, which is a lifetime appointment, has been vacant since Chief Ralph Sturges died in October 2007. He had served as chief since 1992.

Copyright 2010 Associated Press.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

SANDS CASINO CUSTOMERS SURPRISED AND DISAPPOINTED?

Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem customers surprised, disappointed to learn of sale discussions
Monday, March 01, 2010
By COLIN MCEVOY
The Express-Times

BETHLEHEM Reports of Las Vegas Sands Corp.'s plans to sell its Bethlehem casino didn't stop customers from flocking to the slots parlor Sunday for some gaming and relaxation.
But while several customers expressed confidence a sale of the casino would not lead to closure, most were nevertheless surprised and disappointed by the news. }
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"It's a shock," said Nancy Bartholomew, a Glendon resident who spent her 65th birthday at Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem. "Even as bad as the economy is now, there's still a lot of people gambling here today."

The Express-Times reported Saturday that Las Vegas Sands wants to sell its South Side slots parlor because the company is disappointed in the facility's financial returns.

Las Vegas Sands is hoping to sell its Bethlehem facility before completing its partially finished hotel, mall and conference center, according to a person with direct knowledge of high-level discussions, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Ron Bartholomew, Nancy's husband, feels Sands' current problems are a symptom of the recession and that the company would be better off holding onto the casino.

"Once the economy picks up, there's a lot of money in this, what with the casino, the mall, the hotel," said Ron Bartholomew, 64. "When the economy recovers, which it will, then it'll be a good thing for Sands."

Mike Davis, a 56-year-old Perkasie resident visiting the casino Sunday, said he thought the upcoming addition of table games and the construction of the new hotel would help Sands overcome its concerns.

"I think the hotel would help tremendously," Davis said. "This is really a daytrip for people. People like to come to see shows and entertainment and it's just not there yet."

Bethlehem City Council members have expressed disappointment over Sands' intentions to sell and said they would like an explanation regarding the company's future plans.

A Sands spokesman declined to discuss the potential for a sale Friday but said the company is hopeful for better financial returns from Bethlehem.

Davis questioned whether Sands could even find another buyer during such an economic climate. Others customers, however, disagreed.

"It's already built," said John Perez, 54, of Bethlehem Township, Pa. "Your biggest investment is building and that's done. Somebody will come in and undercut them and get it for a good price."

Nancy Bartholomew, determined not to let the news ruin her birthday, also expressed confidence that Sands would find another buyer if it continued to pursue a sale.

"I can't see them closing it down," she said. "I like the motif here, the Bethlehem Steel stuff, the brick walls. I don't want to see it going away."

WYNN TO BECOME MANAGING PARTNER WITH FOXWOODS

Nutter is Pleased with Wynn's New Job at Foxwoods Casino
by KYW’s Mike Dunn'

This week's announcement that Las Vegas Casino mogul Steve Wynn will become managing partner for the trouble Foxwoods casino is drawing a cautious thumbs-up from Mayor Nutter.

Mayor Nutter says Steve Wynn's reputation gives some cause for comfort that Foxwoods will be done right:"It’s about a reputation that is about high quality that is about performance, about actually running casinos."

But Nutter says it remains to be seen how Wynn will address the longstanding problems posed by Foxwoods on South Delaware Avenue, such as traffic and parking:"To the extent that they can make adjustments to what the original proposal was to accommodate those concerns, that'll certainly be fruitful, and we'll see what happens."

Wynn and Foxwoods officials appear before the state Gaming Control Board this coming Wednesday.

MAINE VOTERS TO VOTE ON CASINOS

Maine tribes to ask state voters to approve casino planFriday, February 26, 2010

The Penobscot Nation and the Passamaquoddy Tribe (Indian Township Pleasant Point) of Maine will once again ask state voters to approve a casino.

In 2003, voters rejected the tribes' proposal but they approved a non-Indian gaming facility. The tribes are hoping the climate is better this November.

“It will do a couple of things," Penobscot Chief Kirk Francis told Indian Country Today. "First, it will get our issues back out there again and, two, if the Black Bear Casino passes and ours doesn’t, it will really highlight the real problem in this state.”

Black Bear Entertainment collected enough signatures to put its casino project on the ballot. Under Maine law, a “competing measure” can also be placed on the ballot, ICT reported.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A NEW CASINO FOR THE SHINNECOCK INDIANS?

Shinnecock Indians, Gateway Casino Resorts team up in bid for Long Island casino
BY William Sherman DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

Sunday, February 28th 2010, 4:00 AM

The Shinnecock Indians and their super-rich partners have spent more than $1 million to lobby state and federal lawmakers to let them build a "world-class" casino on Long Island - possibly at Belmont Park racetrack.

The impoverished Southampton, L.I., tribe doesn't have the money for the project, but their backers and development partners, Gateway Casino Resorts, has plenty to invest.
Gateway's principals are Marion Illitch who, with her husband, owns the Detroit Tigers, the Detroit Red Wings, and Little Caesar's national pizza chain, and wealthy gambling czar Mike Malik.

Gateway's only stated business purpose is the Shinnecock casino enterprise, and Malik has made significant contributions to politicians who could turn the plan into reality.

The casino needs the approval of the governor, the Legislature and Congress.

The partners have hired Mercury Public Affairs, whose star lobbyist is Rodney Capel, a former top official in the state Democratic Party. Capel has also worked for Sen. Chuck Schumer, Rep. Charles Rangel, and Assemblyman Herman (Denny) Farrell.

Discussions on the project, some as recent as two weeks ago, have been held with Gov. Paterson, major state leaders, Rangel, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Schumer's chief of staff, Martin Brennan, said Capel, whose firm has been paid more than $200,000.

"We're hoping to get quick resolution on a site location that's good for the state, good for the specific locality and the people there, and good for the tribe," Capel said.

Tribal leader Fred Bess said, "We're looking to build a world-class facility" which would include a full complement of table games like blackjack and poker, plus slot machines, a big hotel and Vegas-style entertainment.

A casino would be a billion-dollar jackpot for the 1,066-member tribe whose desolate reservation is near Southampton's luxurious mansions.

The Shinnecock enterprise is the latest entry in the quest for the big pot of gold - the billions New Yorkers would gamble at locations more convenient than Atlantic City or Foxwoods in Connecticut.

Two weeks ago, tribal leaders and Capel met with Paterson, state Senate president Malcolm Smith, and Sen. John Sampson in Albany, Capel said.

"We don't think getting the approvals will be that hard," said Capel.

On the federal level, Gateway has paid Wheat Government Relations, a highly influential lobbying firm, more than $1 million in the last six years.

The Shinnecocks have paid Wheat $60,000. Wheat, headed by former Rep. Alan Wheat of Missouri, declined comment.

Gateway's big money partners - Illitch and Malik - declined comment through company spokesman Tom Shields.

Last year, Malik, who lives in Detroit, contributed $2,500 to State Sen. Craig Johnson (D-Elmont), whose district encompasses Belmont Park, and $5,000 to then-Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi. Two years ago, he gave Rangel $4,600
.
In the last three years, Malik has contributed more than $83,000 to Democratic and Republican Senate and congressional campaign committees.

JAMES ARTHUR RAY OUT ON BAIL

Man accused of 'sweat lodge' deaths released from jail
Friday, February 26, 2010

James Arthur Ray, the self-help guru accused in connection with the deaths of three people at a "sweat lodge" in Arizona, was released from jail today after his bond was lowered.

The original bond was $5 million. It was lowered to $525,000 after Ray's attorneys said he couldn't afford it.

Ray charged people up to $9,000 to participate in events at the Angel Valley Retreat Center in Sedona. He also once said his company was going to take in $10 million in revenues in 2009.

He is accused of recklessness that caused the deaths of Kirby Brown, 38; James Shore, 40; and Liz Neuman, 49. He has pleaded not guilty

WILL WYNN FORCE FOXWOODS OUT OF PHILADELPHIA?

Foxwoods may sell Pa. casino stake
Analyst sees Wynn buying out tribe

By WILLIAM SOKOLIC
For The Norwich Bulletin
Posted Mar 02, 2010 @ 12:00 AM

Last week, Stephen Wynn’s golden name surfaced as the savior of the troubled Foxwoods project in Philadelphia. But it might cost Foxwoods its role.

Wynn Resorts Ltd., announced on Feb. 23 that it had entered into a letter of intent with Philadelphia Entertainment and Development Partners LP providing that an affiliate of Wynn will become the manager and managing general partner in the casino project slated for the Philadelphia waterfront.

The agreement is subject to the satisfaction of certain conditions, including the approval of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.

Wynn’s winning casino properties include the Golden Nugget in Atlantic City, N.J., and the Mirage, Bellagio, Wynn and Encore in Las Vegas.

“I am thrilled to be returning to the East Coast and, in particular, to the city in which I was privileged to have gained my college education. Philadelphia has always felt like home to me,” said Wynn, chairman and CEO of Wynn Resorts.

So far, Wynn has remained mum on what happens to Foxwoods’ 30 percent investment should he be anointed a majority stake.

“I am hearing he is going to buy Foxwoods out,” said analyst Roger Gros, of Global Gaming Business Magazine. “Wynn does not play well with other people. In terms of management and marketing, he needs to operate alone.

So Foxwoods has to be taken out one way or the other.”$30 million investmentNegotiations continue over the dollar amount, Gros said. Foxwoods will want some sort of profit on its $30 million investment, he said.

Outside of a prepared statement, Foxwoods has also remained mum. Foxwoods Development Co., an arm of the Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Enterprise, declined repeated requests for comment.

The tribe declined to speak beyond this statement:“The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and the Foxwoods Development Co. are pleased to welcome Wynn Resorts to the Philadelphia waterfront casino project.

We believe this is a win-win outcome for Foxwoods Philadelphia, as well as for our local partners, the city of Philadelphia and state of Pennsylvania,” Tribal Council Chairman Rodney Butler said.

No overnight stayWynn outlined plans for Philadelphia to gaming analysts last Thursday, and on Wednesday will go in front of the gaming board to pitch his proposal again. The casino would not include a hotel, nor all the extravagant extras associated with the kind of destination resort Wynn is famous for.

“This is a feel-good opportunity,” he told the analysts. “It won’t look like slots in a box. It will be the cutest casino, with a Wynn signature presentation,” he said.

The finished product will be extraordinarily user-friendly, he added. In addition to the one-story casino itself, it will feature a handful of restaurants: Vietnamese, Italian and a steakhouse, Wynn said.

A three-story parking garage with direct entrances to the casino will allow patrons to zip in for three hours, gamble, grab a bite to eat and zip out again.

Of course, Wynn still has to win over communities upset by the thought of a casino in their midst, the same situation the existing partnership has grappled with for years.

And the fate of Foxwoods’ involvement needs to be resolved.License in jeopardyThe hearing Wednesday could shed some light on both these questions. The focus will be on the lack of documentation submitted to the gaming board toward having the casino ready next year as agreed.

The project owners are already subject to a $2,000 a day fine since Dec. 1 for the lack of paperwork. The hearing will decide why the board should not take further action, which could include revoking the license.

The legislation to permit table games includes a provision to petition the board for an extension if Foxwoods could show good cause, board spokesman Richard McGarvey said. That petition has not been made as yet, he said.Depending on testimony, the board can vote to lift some or all of the fine, he said.

As for Foxwoods’ future, Wynn’s power lies in walking away if he doesn’t get what he wants. If he does, it opens the real risk the gaming control board will lift the Foxwoods license, Gros said. That alone should pressure the Philadelphia investors to convince the tribe to step away.

Copyright 2010 Norwich Bulletin.

Monday, March 1, 2010

POSSIBLE CIGARETTE TAXES IN NEW YORK

Editorial: Follow through on New York tobacco tax planMonday, March 1, 2010

"New York state has failed to implement a system that would preserve the rights of Indian nation members to obtain tax-free cigarettes while sales to non-Indians are taxed. For many years, despite laws on the books to the contrary, the state Department of Taxation and Finance had purposely avoided enforcement of sales tax collections.

Now, with a state budget crisis that seems to grow worse each week, it appears Gov. David Paterson is finally realizing that this issue can no longer be ignored.

At Paterson's direction, the state tax department last week announced new proposed regulations aimed at eliminating untaxed cigarette sales to non-Indian customers, a practice that has been costing the state hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues and that has been putting non-Indian cigarette retailers at a considerable disadvantage.

The new rules would use a formula to determine a quarterly amount of untaxed cigarettes that could go to each Indian nation for use by their own members. All other cigarettes bought wholesale by the tribe and sold to non-Indian customers would be taxed."

SOVEREIGNTY

Sovereignty the issue in tribal forum
By Karin Crompton
Publication: The Day
Published 02/28/2010 12:00 AM

Mashantucket Pequots put identity and independence in the forefront for their nation
Mashantucket - The dateline for this story is "Mashantucket" - and that, in itself, is very much the point that the speakers at a Saturday afternoon forum were trying to make.

The panel discussion was held at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center and featured five speakers plus a moderator who each lectured on the complex issue of tribal sovereignty and its often contentious history in the United States.

The center, like Foxwoods Resort Casino next door, is located in Mashantucket.
It is not in Ledyard.

The speakers in the panel each reiterated for the audience of about 85 people the concept that Mashantucket is a sovereign nation, separate from the state of Connecticut and distinct, too, from the United States.

The museum is attempting to take a more aggressive stance in teaching the public about the issues of tribal sovereignty, indigenous rights and tribal citizenship.

Those ideas are often misunderstood, according to materials handed out at the event, "especially in New England, as the politics of race and Federal Recognition have been tangled with gaming rights."

Not about equality

Moderator J. Kehaulani Kauanui, associate professor of American Studies and Anthropology at Wesleyan University, led off by describing how people commonly confuse the issue with that of civil rights.

Kauanui read from a handful of reader comments posted on The Day's Web site earlier this week, when a preview of Saturday's event ran. The comments generally fell into the category of questioning why the tribe gets special status when, in the United States, "all men are created equal."

Kauanui and the other speakers told the audience that sovereignty is not about equality, race or civil rights. Rather, as the original inhabitants of the United States, the tribes are their own nations and abide by their own laws. They are nations within the United States, not, as one speaker pointed out, separate towns or municipalities.

The five panelists covered separate but overlapping topics, from the idea of cultural sovereignty - as opposed to strictly governmental sovereignty or the ability to game - to discussion of state and federal law from two of the tribe's attorneys.

Speaker James Jackson, treasurer of the Mashantucket Pequot Council, told the audience that confusion surrounding the issue was only exacerbated by zip codes; without consulting the Mashantucket tribe, Jackson said, the government at first assigned Mashantucket the same zip code as Ledyard.

Mashantucket finally got its own zip code in 2002, he said, but the confusion created a "geographical identity crisis" for the tribe in the meantime.

"There was (its) perceived inclusion as part of another entity," Jackson said.

John Echohawk, co-founder and executive director of the Native American Rights Fund, said Saturday's forum was key. "If you don't understand tribal sovereignty," Echohawk said, "you don't understand Indians; it's as simple as that."