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Another union vote for Foxwoods engineers today

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Mashantucket - A trade union seeking to represent employees of Foxwoods Resort Casino's engineering department will pursue an election at the casino today for the second time in less than five months - and the third time overall.

On May 13, Local 30 of the International Union of Operating Engineers narrowly failed in a bid to organize employees under Mashantucket Pequot law. While those who voted favored affiliation, 128 to 123, the union needed 132 votes - a majority of the 263 employees eligible to vote to win.

Since then, the tribe, which owns Foxwoods, has amended its labor law to allow union elections to be determined by a majority of those casting ballots rather than by a majority of those eligible to vote. The tribe's new standard is the same that governs union elections conducted by the National Labor Relations Board.

Prior to last May's vote, Local 30 petitioned the NLRB's Hartford office to conduct an election at Foxwoods but then withdrew the request, agreeing instead to proceed under tribal law. Two years earlier, in a May 1, 2008 vote conducted by the NLRB, engineering employees rejected the union, 215 to 67.

Today's election is being conducted by the Mashantucket Employment Rights Office in accordance with tribal law, according to Ursula Haerter, director of the office.

Neither Foxwoods nor tribal officials would provide any details about the election, such as the number of employees eligible to participate or the positions those employees hold. Union officials did not respond to questions about the latest organizing effort at Foxwoods. Employees eligible to participate in the previous Local 30 elections worked in the casino's engineering, facilities, projects, engineering apprenticeship and interior landscape departments.

The tribe, which maintains its sovereign status exempts it from federal labor laws, is contesting the outcome of a July 31 election in which bartenders and other beverage workers voted to affiliate with Local 371 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.

The tribe alleges the election, conducted under federal law, was tainted by union organizers and employees who "made inflammatory appeals to voters' political, racial and/or ethnic prejudices."

An NLRB judge presided last week over a two-day hearing on the allegations.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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