Mississippi Casino Workers Union Says Casinos Lax in Enforcing COVID-19 Protocols

  • The union presented a report to the Gaming Commission with complaints and suggestions
  • Just 19% of the Beau Rivage workers surveyed said they were happy with COVID safety
  • Employees say that management prioritizes attendance over health
  • The casinos claim they have met or exceeded state guidelines
Beau Rivage
UNITE HERE Local 23 told the Mississippi Gaming Commission on Thursday that casinos are not following COVID-19 health guidelines properly, putting the union’s workers at risk. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Union offered suggestions to the Commission

Mississippi casino workers are not happy with how their employers are handling the COVID-19 pandemic. On Thursday, they took their concerns to the Mississippi Gaming Commission. At a Commission meeting, spokespeople for UNITE HERE Local 23, a union which represents more than 300,000 North American casino employees, presented a report, laying out the problems workers are seeing and providing suggestions for improvements.

social distancing guidelines were either “rarely” or “never” followed

The report says that workers who were possibly exposed to COVID-19 were still told to go to work, that face mask rules were not being consistently enforced, and that sanitization practices were subpar. In a survey, just 19% of the 96 Beau Rivage employees who responded said that they felt the casino was doing enough to protect the health of guests and staff. Overall, 70% of workers at both the Beau Rivage and IP Biloxi said that social distancing guidelines were either “rarely” or “never” followed.

The union also said that the commission’s guidelines on guest room cleaning are insufficient. Currently, the rooms only need to be cleaned after guests check out. The union wants them to be updated to require daily cleanings.

The Mississippi Gaming Commission did not make any changes during the meeting, but it is taking everything under advisement. “I assure you that the two commissioners and I will meet together with regard to it to do what we can to make it as safe as possible,” said Commissioner Al Hopkins.

First-hand testimonials

One Beau Rivage employee said that casino management is not taking the threat of the virus seriously. Kelli Pizzi, who works in the casino’s 24-hour restaurant, explained that management was not concerned that she was potentially exposed to an infected co-worker because 14 days had elapsed. Pizzi got tested to be sure, and after the results came back negative, her manager said that they believe employees are just getting tests done so they can take time off work.

they will catch a lot of people because they are just going to get tested so they can get time off work”

She was told: “They will catch a lot of people because they are just going to get tested so they can get time off work because they are running out of attendance points.”

Carolyn Ford, who has worked at IP Biloxi for nearly two decades, tested positive for COVID-19 after being in close contact with a colleague. Before she received the results of her test, management wanted her to work. “What if I would have come back and I could have spread it to more and more employees?” Ford asked.

The report listed ten confirmed COVID-19 cases at Beau Rivage and five at IP Biloxi.

Casinos provide rebuttals

Both casinos released statements on Wednesday, essentially saying that they are following all the health and safety guidelines very strictly, despite what the union has detailed.

Beau Rivage said that it gives employees two weeks’ pay if they test positive for COVID-19 so that they can quarantine. Additionally, anyone who may have been in contact with someone who tested positive must report a negative test before resuming work. The casino does its own contact tracing. Beau Rivage also has a couple internal marketing campaigns to remind employees on all the protocols.

In its statement, IP Biloxi said: “We continue to practice comprehensive safety measures that meet or exceed the requirements of federal, state and local health officials, including social distancing, frequent sanitation of high-touch surfaces, temperature checks and symptom screening of team members and customers, and mandatory face coverings.”

The casino added that employees receive paid time off if they feel sick or were in contact with someone who tested positive for the virus.

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