Union group protests casino layoffs | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Union group protests casino layoffs

Gregory Crofton, Tahoe Daily Tribune

Former casino employees picketed Stateline over the weekend telling people to boycott Harveys, Harrah’s and Bill’s Lake Tahoe Casino. They claimed management of the casinos is a “union buster” and “unfair to labor.”

The protesters, who carried signs and used a bullhorn, are members of a union based in Reno that’s organized for stage employees and movie technicians.

“We’ve been in touch with union officials and we would be pleased to talk to them,” John Packer, the casino communications manager, said Sunday night. “Beyond that it wouldn’t be appropriate to comment.”

The layoffs of six union members who worked stage jobs at Harveys led to the picket. The workers said the dismissals, made Oct. 1, were announced three days in advance and included no severance package or pay for unused vacation days.

The protesters like Vienna Gandee want their jobs back and plan to continue picketing in front of the casino every weekend until they see results.

Gandee lost a job at Harveys after 11 years at the casino operating stage lights. She said management promised them an opportunity to re-apply for a position with Harrah’s Entertainment, but it never happened.

“This job I had so much pride in,” said Gandee, 38, who now lives on unemployment. “We’ve been under contract. Harveys never had a problem with it until Harrah’s came in.”

The union, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, claims that Harrah’s is not honoring any part of a contract that promised work until June 2005. They say the corporation is anti-union.

John Bock, a union representative, said he expects at least 40 people to show up and picket this weekend. He said he is confused about the layoffs because union workers get paid about the same amount as non-union.

“That’s what doesn’t make sense. If the wages are comparable, why bring somebody else in?”

Paul Weisbrich was a stage manager at Harvey before he was laid off. He said losing his job has been demoralizing.

“You feel like you did something wrong or that you’re a bad employee,” said Weisbrich, who worked at Harveys for 13 years. “It’s really affected me. I’ve never been tossed aside before.”

Harveys and Harrah’s merged July 30. Since the deal, about 200 of the company’s 4,000 employees have been laid off, Packer said.

Harrah’s Entertainment owns 25 properties in 12 states, including Bill’s Lake Tahoe Casino. With the addition of Harveys, its number of registered gamblers increased to more than 20 million.

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