I received an e-mail from Victor Rocha accusing me of being a "closeted racist" for forcing Michigan Legislators to consider the lack of rights for casino workers in these "compacts."
Here is my response to Mr. Victor Rocha:
Mr. Victor Rocha who has managed to make a living as a front for organized crime in promoting so-called “Indian Gaming” has decided that my talking about the rights of casino workers is an act of “closeted racism;” when in fact, it is Native American workers who are hurt the most by these mobsters being fronted for by Native American bands like the Gun Lake Band.
Forcing people who can not get employment anyplace else to work in smoke-filled casinos at poverty wages, without any rights makes the distribution of small-pox laden blankets appear to be a real gift from heaven.
Mr. Rocha makes no bones about it, he is looking for a pay-off in the “time honored tradition” of the gaming industry. I am sure Mr. Rocha has been well rewarded for his dirty deeds of covering up the human rights abuses casino workers across this country have been, and continue to be, subjected to by these casino managements.
Interesting, Mr. Rocha never gets any compliments from working class tribal members telling him how grateful they are for the “great” jobs his publication has helped them to secure.
Anyone ever read about the “little” skimming operations which rob these casinos and ultimately the bands--- and workers--- of the lucrative share of the profits they have been promised.
Anyone who has ever stepped foot in any of the 400 or so “Native American owned/operated casinos” in this country has to wonder why there would be a single case of poverty involving malnutrition, unfit housing, joblessness, lack of educational or health care access on any reservation or Native American--- rural or urban--- community in the United States.
As any school child understands, poverty can not be eliminated as long as poverty wages are being paid by these casino operators employing people in these smoke-filled casinos without one iota of concern for the health of casino workers employed at poverty wages without any rights under state, federal, or tribal labor laws.
I am sure Mr. Rocha and his publication has made it much easier for reporters like Chris Knape of the Grand Rapids Press to peddle more lies about these casino operations.
It would appear to me Mr. Victor Rocha has found a way to live a lavish lifestyle as a result of his intentionally ignoring racism in the casino industry and the human rights abuses casino workers are subjected to twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, three-hundred and sixty five days of the year.
Not once has Mr. Rocha looked for the underlying problems creating racism in the casino industry.
Just goes to show who Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm and the Democratic Party rely on their support from.
By the way, ever notice the lack of Native American workers on the construction sites as these casinos are being built, remodeled, and undergoing gigantic expansions?
Where are the affirmative action programs in the “deals” worked out between these casino managements and the building and construction trades unions? Perhaps Mr. Hugh Coward, the President of the Southwest Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council would like to enlighten us all on this matter?
Anyways… here is Mr. Victor Rocha’s little “plea of poverty” on the World Wide Web as he looks for another hand out; I am confident the Fertitta Family and Station Casinos would like to slip this poverty stricken gentleman some more “spare change”:
Since the passage of California's Proposition 5 in 1998, Pechanga.Net has provided critical news and commentary on Indian and gaming issues throughout the country. The results have been remarkable. The website gets about 1.5 million hits a month. It has helped elect officials, pass or block legislation, and raise money for worthy causes. Every day tribal leaders, politicians, lawyers, business executives, and journalists tell me how Pechanga.Net makes their jobs easier.
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As you know, Pechanga.Net offers its service free, and I'd like to keep it that way. The site's independence means it doesn't have to slant its editorial policy to satisfy funding sources. If you find Pechanga.Net a valuable resource and want to help this effort, please consider contributing whatever you can. Your donations will ensure we have enough funds to continue providing the essential news and commentary for Indian Country.
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Following is my response to Mr. Garbarino who is employed by the Democratic Leader of the Michigan House:
From: Gary Garbarino [mailto:Ggarbarino@house.mi.gov]
Sent: Friday, July 27, 2007 3:12 PM
To: Alan Maki
Subject: FW: Re: our phone conversation this A.M. Please click on the link below to my blog...
I will respond to your e-mails in depth in a separate e-mail. However, the e-mail that you expected me to forward to all Democratic Representatives accused them of taking bribes. I will not forward it, and I suggest that unless you have proof of such actions, you refrain from making such accusations. Taking a bribe in exchange for a vote is a crime.
Office of Representative Steve Tobocman
From: Alan Maki [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Tuesday, July 31, 2007 9:09 AM
To: 'Gary Garbarino'; 'email@example.com'
Cc: 'firstname.lastname@example.org'; 'Michael Johnston'; 'email@example.com'
Subject: RE: Re: our phone conversation this A.M. Please click on the link below to my blog...
I have posed some very simple and basic questions concerning workers’ rights and this “Compact.”
So far, you say you will respond, yet you have not.
You can easily distribute my response to the Grand Rapids Press article and my essay on ethics and morality in governmental decision making to all members of the Michigan Legislature’s Democratic Caucus. Feel free to edit as you see fit since the questions I am posing are very legitimate and stand on their own--- with or without--- my commentary as to the perception of bribes. I think you fully understand my concerns relating to the rights of working people.
If you have not received comments concerning the rights of workers as I have raised from other unions, I would suggest that you might want to contact them for their input. There is the possibility I was not the only representative from labor who was not informed of the hearing before the Regulatory Reform Committee. In fact, I know I was not. At least two locals from the Building and Construction Trades Union in the Upper Peninsula who had opinions differing with the statement in support from the Southwest Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council had requested to know about this hearing as they intended to introduce testimony regarding the Island Casino addition near Escanaba.
Other than having been “bribed,” what other reason would there be for the members of the Regulatory Reform Committee of the Michigan House not to have asked any of the questions I raise in my response to the article from the Grand Rapids Press?
When I talked to people in the area around where the casino is going to be built, more often than not, the comment I would receive from people was a motion; they would rub their thumb against their fingers… an obvious indication they felt this all revolves around politicians getting something in return for their votes.
What is it you think these people are referring to? I would remind you that in politics perception is just about everything.
Once people begin to look at the history of the Fertitta Family and the lack of any questions concerning the rights of working people, do you really think the perception is not one of massive amounts of cash exchanging hands in an illegal manner in order to obtain the needed votes?
I think I have a very legitimate reason to publicly voice the concerns many people harbor concerning the way this “deal” is going down.
You might want to spend an evening viewing the movie, Casino; I understand the Fertitta Family is featured very prominently in this movie, although not by name.
Do you really believe that the public will not understand that when “skimming” a casino is at issue, bribes to politicians are not involved?
However, you are using this issue of “bribes” as a clever way to continue skirting the issue of workers’ rights. Let me assure you, Mr. Garbarino, there is no way you and your legislative caucus can continue to skirt this issue… members of your caucus can follow the lead of Governor Granholm and the Regulatory Reform Committee and vote for this casino; however, now that these questions are coming into the open in various ways I think many people are going to wonder “why” so many Democratic legislators who are backed and supported by organized labor would ignore these issues relating to workers’ rights and the conditions casino employees will labor under.
Anyone with the least little bit of intelligence and common sense is going to be asking why these questions have not come forward. I spoke with several labor leaders, including the President of the union representing the hourly workers for the City of Grand Rapids who is supporting this casino, but is now doing so with grave reservations about the rights of workers who will be employed in this casino.
Please keep in mind, Mr. Garbarino, that simply because people may not have thought about this issue, does not mean that once the issue is placed before them they continue to think about this issue in the same manner. I hope you will consider this because now that the issue has been raised, the proverbial “genie” is out of the bottle and no one can confine her again; even if the Grand Rapids Press chooses to ignore these issues.
I believe this is one of those issues so integrally connected to peoples’ perceptions about ethics and morality in government that the Democratic Party and the Democratic Legislative Caucus will not be able to shake off the ramifications of giving this “Compact” its approval.
I have sent this to a number of unions presently looking at organizing casino workers.
One last thing; the Southwest Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council alluded to this casino having the support of at least 40 other organizations. I assume that great friend of organized labor--- the Kalamazoo, Michigan Chamber of Commerce--- was one of the 40 organizations. As for the others, I do not know who they might be. Could you provide me with that list? It concerns me that a union, any union, would only be looking out for the interests of their own members and what they might get out of this casino venture without taking into account the workers who will be spending a good portion of their lives employed in this casino. I trust, being the friend of labor you say you are, this would be of considerable concern to you.
Please feel free to read, and re-read my blog on this issue… judging from the responses I am receiving, many other people are.
I do await your response,
Alan L. Maki
Director of Organizing,
Midwest Casino Workers Organizing Council
58891 County Road 13
Warroad, Minnesota 56763
Cell phone: 651-587-5541
Check out my blog:
Thoughts From Podunk
Hopefully it has now been impressed upon you that many others share our concerns over this “Compact” with the Gun Lake Band which Michigan legislators are considering approving.
I have now been in communication with a number of labor leaders, elected labor officials, rank and file activists, and those in Michigan concerned about workers’ rights and social justice who share our concerns about this “Compact” with the Gun Lake Band.
I have yet to hear back from you even though I am, quite literally, hearing from union activists all over the United States now who are saying, “Yes, Michigan! It is a good place to bring this issue forward; and, the timing is right.”
I hope you are conveying these sentiments to all the members of the Democratic Party Legislative Caucus who have, until now, demonstrated a very flippant and uncaring attitude towards the rights of these casino workers.
I just got off the telephone with the President of the Southwest Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council--- Hugh Coward, and, he assures me he shares the same concerns I am voicing to you regarding the rights of the 1,800 workers who will be employed in this casino. He assures me he is no ogre concerned only about his own members but is concerned about all workers. AS you can see, I have forwarded this e-mail to President Hugh Coward at: firstname.lastname@example.org
My suggestion would be that before any vote is taken, the House Democratic Caucus should meet together with the Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council, the Michigan AFL-CIO, Change to Win, our Organizing Committee, and any other labor unions who have a concern that casino workers are not being adequately represented in this “Compact”… that agreement on a clause be reached assuring casino workers will have the same rights as all other workers under Michigan and Federal labor laws including the protection of their right to organize, and that the Governor, and members of the House and Senate meet with the Gun Lake Band to include this in the “Compact” and the new agreement should then be submitted to the same approval process.
This is really all very simple.
In fact, President Hugh Coward of the Southwest Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council assures me that the Gun Lake Band is a great and understanding group of people to do business with; and he has assured me, that if he had been aware of our concerns prior to this, [I can’t explain why he wasn’t aware of the situation with casino workers but that is neither here nor there] he would have been able to take care of this problem with the Gun Lake Band long ago.
So, Mr. Garbarino, here we are, even those who delivered testimony in support of this project during the hearing last Wednesday before the House Regulatory Reform Committee are now saying they share our concerns.
There is no longer any reason for the Michigan Legislature to proceed in voting on this issue at this time… simply send it back to Governor Granholm whom I am certain is now looking upon this “Compact” as being very deficient in the area of workers’ rights.
I think everyone can chalk this up to a learning experience and now get on with doing what is right and just.
I can’t see why the inclusion of such a clause in the “Compact” would find any opposition from any quarters on the part of anyone or any organization previously supporting this “Compact;” whoever the “some 40 organizations” referred to in President Hugh Coward’s testimony before the House Regulatory Reform Committee [ see link: http://www.house.mi.gov/SessionDocs/2007-2008/Testimony/Committee19-7-24-2007-4.pdf ]. I haven’t checked with the Kalamazoo Chamber of Commerce, but I would assume they would have no opposition. And, I can’t imagine the Gun Lake Band wanting to do the wrong thing by the casino workers they will have to get along with for many years to come.
I can see no reason why President Coward would not be able to get the Gun Lake Band to agree to this very simple, yet very important, modification of the “Compact” at this late date… after all, I am sure President Coward would be in agreement with me that we should be concerned with the rights of ALL workers who will be impacted by this casino venture and the “Compact” giving it life. I can see no reason why any of the unions who are a part of the Southwest Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council would want to see this “Compact” defeated on this issue of protecting the rights of casino workers.
It might be helpful to have President Hugh Coward bring forward exactly how his members will be working under this “Compact” and how their present contract with other employers will be enforced on this casino project… the role of MIOSHA, OSHA, in enforcing health and safety issues, etc. and the role of business agents and union stewards in handling grievances on the job and other disputes arising under the terms of their general collectively bargained agreements. It would be beneficial to see where the construction firms and general contractor will be bound by general collective agreements for all private and public jobs.
Again, once you inform me of the date and time of the meeting I will be there.
I think this is the way things should be, everyone demonstrating concern for one another.
Alan L. Maki
Director of Organizing,
Midwest Casino Workers Organizing Council
58891 County Road 13
Warroad, Minnesota 56763
Cell phone: 651-587-5541
Check out my blog:
Thoughts From Podunk
While Michigan Legislators have allowed the reference to "$40,000.00 a year casino jobs" to go unchallenged, I have insisted in accountability for this lie from: the Gun Lake Band, the Kalamazoo Chamber of Commerce, the Southwest Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council, and Michigan Legislators by insisting they bring forward a list of all positions which will be available along with the hourly pay schedules and projected annual income of each job position. This is not too much to ask since when the Michigan Legislature has previously discussed these "Compacts" the exact same outlandish figures have been tossed around only to see Michigan's casino workers making, "on average," the miserly, poverty wages of between eight and $12,000.00 a year once the casino operations are up and running; this from an industry which is making fabulous sums of money hand-over-fist.
I would note, deceptive as it remains, the testimony of President Hugh Coward refers to a "wages and benefits package" in his testimony, although no casinos in Michigan or anyplace else in the Midwest provide such "wages and benefits" averaging $40,000.00 a year. President Coward asks me to believe the Gun Lake Band is telling the truth in this matter. Neither I, nor anyone else, should have to "believe" this to be true... simply bring out the listing of "job opportunities" and the associated pay schedules for these jobs and then we can all see for ourselves the empirical data first hand; this is the only way to address this issue honestly with accountability.
That Michigan's Governor and Legislators would consider anything less is shameful.
Check out how the Odawa/Victories Casino and Resort in Petoskey, Michigan where the Midwest Casino Workers Organizing Council has a union organizing campaign presently underway, advertises jobs:
Must be able to write legibly and be able to understand and speak English. Long periods of standing and walking required. Significant lifting up to thirty-five (35) pounds, along with bending, reaching, stooping, pushing and pulling. May encounter wet slippery floors. Moderate use of hands, wrists, and fingers as associated with carrying trays, computer and cash register usage. Exposure to loud and continual noise levels and a smoke filled environment. Must be flexible with shifts and days off. Must maintain confidentiality at all times. Must be able to meet Odawa Casino Resort's Internal training requirements. Must be able to obtain a gaming license in accordance to the regulations established by the LTBB Gaming Regulatory Commission.
"Exposure to loud and continual noise levels and a smoke filled environment"
No place are the health and safety risks associated with such a work environment posted. The American Cancer Society and the Heart and Lung Foundation should place a billboard with the risks along with the photographs contained on the packages of cigarettes sold in Canada to get the point across about the dangers of second-hand smoke.
TheStreet.com columnist Brett Arends looks at where Republican presidential candidate and current primary-race front-runner Rudy Giuliani is getting some of his campaign donations.
Underreported from the first fund-raising tallies: Giuliani is by far the most popular figure in the gambling and casino industry. He's raised $94,900 from bookies of all stripes so far -- twice as much as anyone else. Las Vegas' Fertitta family, owners of Station Casinos, is among his top contributors.
Giuliani is also the cigarette companies' favorite Republican, collecting $26,050 from the industry in the quarter.
Hillary Clinton's long list of contributors include members of the Fertitta family, owners of a chain of neighborhood nonunion casinos.