SAN PABLO -- Protesters marched on Casino San Pablo and City Hall on Monday before weighing in during the City Council meeting to demand that the city take labor's side in an ongoing dispute with the Indian casino.
The protest, which comprised about 25 workers and organizers, came on the heels of a federal labor judge's ruling last month that the Lytton Rancheria-owned casino engaged in unfair labor practices while grappling with workers over wages, benefits and working conditions.
"The decision was clearly in the union's favor," said Wei-Ling Huber, president of Unite Here Local 2850. "The casino should be providing better for the community."
Before the March 5 court decision, the union lodged a series of complaints with the National Labor Relations Board's Oakland office, including that casino management has bargained in bad faith, banned union organizers, bullied workers and unlawfully denied benefits.
But union organizers said the casino would likely appeal this week and that the legal process could drag on for years without resolution.
The City Council in February passed a resolution urging both parties to find common ground and pursue "judicial remedies" if necessary.
"It was a weak resolution," said union organizer Jessica Medina. "We want support."
The council listened to a half-dozen speakers during the public comment period, but only Mayor Genoveva Garcia-Calloway replied, thanking the union members for their input.
The protesters exited the meeting after public comment, chanting "Si se puede," or "Yes we can," as they filed out of chambers.
Huber said wages for casino workers have dropped and benefits have been denied by forcing workers into part-time employment in recent years. Huber said average wages for casino workers were $10.49 per hour four years ago and only $9.69 per hour today. Huber said as older, higher-paid workers retire, they are replaced by lower-paid and part-time employees.
Casino representatives could not be reached for comment.
City Manager Matt Rodriguez said last week that the casino is by far the city's largest taxpayer. The casino's tax payments account for about 60 percent of the city's $24 million operating budget. San Pablo has among the highest unemployment rates in the region, at 17 percent, Rodgriguez said.
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