Casino Workers

Judge says casino workers can post pro-union fliers

Workers at Agua Caliente-run casinos are claiming a victory in their ongoing attempts to unionize after an arbitration judge’s decision to allow them to post pro-union flyers in employee break rooms.

“It’s a big step forward. Workers feel vindicated. The free speech of workers has been trampled on” by the tribe, said Rosalind Sagara, communications coordinator for the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union which brought the petition against the tribe to allow employees to post the flyers. “That’s what we need to focus on.”

HERE is attempting to organize workers at the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians’ Agua Caliente Casino in Rancho Mirage and Spa Resort Casino in Palm Springs.

Tribal officials last August rejected a request by five employees to post the pro-labor bills, saying the request was tantamount to organizing a union.

Agua Caliente officials could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

The arbitrator, retired federal Judge Raul A. Ramirez, ruled March 3 that the employees’ postings do not run afoul of tribal requirements regarding union organizing.

Ramirez added that posting the flyers does not equate to union organizing.

It’s an important ruling, Sagura said, but she added much work remains to solve other issues important to casino employees, such as health insurance and workers’ compensation.

The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, in a show of faith and confidence in its current leadership, recently voted to re-elect Richard M. Milanovich as tribal chairman.

Milanovich, who has served as chairman since 1984, was elected for an unprecedented 11th term — a testament to the tribe’s faith in a leader who has served them well over the course of two decades.

Under his leadership, a number of key historical tribal events occurred. The tribe reclaimed the Spa Hotel in 1989, which it restored and opened in 1992.

Cultural preservation also took center stage during his tenure as the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum and the Indian Canyons program were implemented under his watch. These achievements have also launched the Agua Caliente tribe into national prominence — they are among the nations’ most successful, and politically powerful tribes.

Milanovich is a coalition-builder; he has created a closer-knit tribal community, which has translated to good working relationships with the cities within the tribal lands.

The tribe, and the Coachella Valley, will continue to be well-served with Milanovich at the helm.