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Economy & Business

Food Workers at Rivers Casino Garner Pittsburgh Council Support for Union

The month-old unionization effort of food service employees at the Rivers Casino was boosted with a bit of political clout on Tuesday.

Pittsburgh City Council passed a resolution in support of the proposed union, which could band together some 800 workers at the North Shore gambling house.

The union would include waiters, banquet servers, floor workers and others spread out across the casino's five internal restaurants. The labor group Unite Here! would administer the union. A spokesman said the group has no experience organizing casino dealers or security guards.

Food service employees said they want more respect from management, as well as higher wages and better benefits.

"When I started, I was promised that I'd be making good money and would have great benefits," said Matt Fred Lapka, a waiter at the casino. "Since that time, I have struggled to make ends meet, as have many of my coworkers."

Employees said they also want more clarity on their wages through itemized lists of electronic debit tips.

"It's very frustrating that when I leave, I have no idea what I make in the tips that I get from my customers," said Brittany Swiger, a banquet server at Rivers. "We should know what we're making when we leave. We have no idea. We get our paychecks, and there you go."

Both Swiger and Lapka said they feel intimidated by casino management. They said managers have broken up conversations about the proposed organization and posted anti-union materials in the employee break room.

Councilman Daniel Lavelle said Rivers Casino promised to be a good corporate neighbor when it came to Pittsburgh in 2009.

"Being a good corporate neighbor means providing good quality jobs at good rates," Lavelle said.

The Will of Council document passed Tuesday said workers at the Meadows Racetrack and Casino in Washington County, at Presque Isle Downs and Casino in Erie County and at the Horseshoe Casino in Cleveland have all formed unions with no resistance from management.