New union contract pays off for casino workers

More than 1,200 workers at Cache Creek Casino Resort have ratified their second union contract, securing pay raises and freezing health insurance costs.

Cache Creek, in Yolo County, was the first Indian casino in the state to get a collective bargaining agreement, three years ago. It is now the first to renew.

With the contract at Cache Creek completed, UNITE HERE, which represents the workers in Local 49 at Cache Creek, is renegotiating other contracts at Sacramento-area hotels — and potentially getting in position to have the employees of Thunder Valley Casino in Placer County vote for representation this year.

Thunder Valley in its amended compact from two summers ago „respects the ability of the workers to organize,“ said Ivana Krajcinovic, organizing director for UNITE HERE.

„When you take the fear out of organizing for representation, people will choose to join the union,“ she said, adding that any organization of Thunder Valley employees is in very early stages.


At Cache Creek, the employees got annual raises of up to USD 1 an hour for three years. Casino workers now earn between USD 9 and USD 10 an hour, and many of them earn tips. The employees pay USD 20 a month for healthcare for themselves, USD 40 a month for themselves and a dependent and USD 80 for family coverage.

„It was very important for us to maintain the co-pays on the healthcare, since healthcare costs have become so exorbitant,“ Krajcinovic said.

In the broader workplace, labor negotiations are centering on getting more pay or keeping health insurance rates from rising. To get both is rare, said Stacey Sheston, group leader of public law at McDonough, Holland & Allen in Sacramento.

Mutual respect

The union has been very supportive of Indian gambling issues in state and federal politics, said Howard Dickstein, attorney for the Rumsey Band of Wintun, the tribe that owns the casino.

„It has been a relationship that has benefited both parties,“ he said. „The union employees have been a big part of the success of the casino operations.“