State labor relations officials certified SEIU Local 888 to represent gaming agents at the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, the agency tasked with overseeing the state’s three casinos and the brand-new sports betting industry. It is the first time a union has been certified to represent employees at the gaming agency. The unionization push comes as the commission prepares to launch mobile sports betting later this spring; finds itself weeks into the start of in-person sports betting at Encore Boston Harbor, MGM Springfield and Plainridge Park Casino; and continues to regulate casino gambling. In a decision dated Jan. 20, Department of Labor Relations Director Philip Roberts wrote that a majority of gaming agents selected SEIU Local 888 as their representative in collective bargaining negotiations.
The union will represent all full-time and regular part-time employees who work as either supervisory gaming agents or gaming agents at the commission. It will not represent “managerial, confidential, casual and other employees,” according to the decision.
SEIU Local 888 President Tom McKeever said the decision was a “decisive victory.”
“We knew from the start that the law was on our side and that gaming agents were entitled to proper representation by a union,” McKeever said. “We applaud the department’s decision and look forward to working with our brothers and sisters at the Gaming Commission to ensure that they receive fair treatment and pay.”
The decision, the union said, allows gaming agents “access to the fair and comprehensive representation of SEIU 888 regarding collective bargaining” even as the Gaming Commission maintains broad authority over internal affairs.
A spokesperson for the commission said a meeting between SEIU Local 888 and Gaming Commission attorneys to discuss contract negotiations has not yet been scheduled, as the bargaining process is still in its infancy.
“The Massachusetts Gaming Commission looks forward to a positive relationship with the SEIU,” the commission spokesperson Tom Mills said in a statement to MassLive.
But the commission did meet in an executive session Tuesday to “discuss strategy with respect to collective bargaining in light of the January” decision, a meeting agenda said.
In a motion from Commissioner Eileen O’Brien, seconded by Commissioner Brad Hill, the commission unanimously voted to move into a private meeting, to which members of the public do not have access.
Ahead of the executive session, general counsel Todd Grossman said the Gaming Commission was recently notified by “way of written correspondence from the Department of Labor Relations that the gaming agent division has sought to organize with a union known as SEIU Local 888.”
“In strategic preparation for collective bargaining discussions with that organization, it would likely be beneficial for the commission to be briefed as to the status of the situation and to have presented before it a couple of decision points as far as moving forward is concerned, and we do have outside counsel working with us on that,” he said.