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Foxwoods' unionized dealers furloughed along with rest of casino's workers

Foxwoods Resorts Casino's coronavirus-induced shutdown came amid contract negotiations between casino management and unionized table-games dealers represented by Local 2121 of the United Auto Workers.

The casino closed to the public Tuesday night for two weeks, though the shutdown presumably could last much longer. Foxwoods furloughed its workforce of more than 5,000 employees.

Following the casino's closing, the union informed its members that Foxwoods would not agree to any paid leave for workers. In recent days, the union has been helping members apply for state unemployment benefits at the local's Norwich offices.

"Our local is very disappointed Foxwoods refused to negotiate paid leave for our members in the week prior to announcing the inevitable shutdown," John DelMonte, the Local 2121 president, said in a statement. "We were proactive in seeking their assistance early on, and they instead chose to be reactive. The Local was given 24 hours' notice to try and notify all of our 1,200 workers that they would be furloughed for two weeks and forced to collect unemployment if they wanted minimum compensation.

"This has caused our members and the other 4,000 workers at Foxwoods a great hardship as well as overloading our state's unemployment system," DelMonte said. "We expected better than that."

In response, John James, Foxwoods' president and chief executive officer, issued a statement.

"These are unprecedented times for all of us and we are making business decisions based on a variety of factors, including the safety of our Team Members and guests as well as the requirements and/or guidance of executive orders/requests from the Governor and other state leaders," James said. "We recognize and respect our duty to bargain and intend to continue that obligation as things progress. However, we also have to be nimble as things develop rapidly. We value and respect all of our Team Members and want to do what is best for them and the business such that we can all come out of this in a manner that allows us to recover."

The terms of Local 2121's previous contract, which expired Dec. 31, 2019, remain in effect until a new agreement is reached. Neither side has commented on the status of ongoing negotiations.

Mohegan Sun also closed to the public Tuesday night, and, like Foxwoods, has canceled or postponed all entertainment and events that had been scheduled into April.

"During our temporary closure amidst the unprecedented global health crisis, almost all of our team members have been placed on furlough," Jeff Hamilton, Mohegan Sun's president and general manager, said in a statement. "During this period, team members will continue to receive health benefits, access to key services and regular communication remains in effect as well. The top priority of our leadership team is to return all affected team members upon a re-open, at which point we have the ultimate confidence we'll return as strong as ever ..."

Casinos, both commercial and tribal, have closed across the country. Rhode Island's Twin River casinos in Lincoln and Tiverton, which originally expected to shutter for one week, will remain closed through at least March 27, state officials have announced.

Las Vegas-based Wynn Resorts, which owns Encore Boston Harbor in Everett, Mass., which closed last Sunday, announced it will continue to pay employees at all of its properties for 30 days during the coronavirus pandemic.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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