On March 19, Jessica Levin, a bartender at Ameristar and union shop steward, addressed the Indiana Gaming Commission, alerting them to the boycott she and her coworkers called earlier that month.
On March 19, workers from Ameristar, East Chicago, were joined by their union brothers and sisters in Indianapolis on a day of lobbying their legislators about House Bill 1540, which addresses gaming in the state.
We delivered a letter, which you can read below, to several of our legislators and sponsors and authors of the bill. Later, we sent a similar letter to all state Senators and Representatives.
HB1540 would extend the tax deduction on promotional free play at casinos like Ameristar until 2018, costing communities around Indiana $5.5 million over the two years of the extension.
Ameristar Casino made over $200 million in revenue last year for its Las Vegas parent company. Yet, the casino cut the affordable family health insurance plan that hardworking Hoosiers have had for years.
We urged legislators to oppose the promotional tax deduction extension because casinos like Ameristar do not deserve another tax break. Instead, that $5.5 million should put police officers on the streets and fund Hoosier schools.
On March 4th, workers from East Chicago’s Ameristar Casino launched an official boycott of Ameristar. Servers, bussers and cleaners are asking customers not to spend a penny at Ameristar until the casino settles a union contract that maintains workers’ affordable family health insurance plan that they have had for years.
Ameristar Casino is owned by Pinnacle Entertainment, Inc., based in Las Vegas. Union employees have been without a contract since Pinnacle bought Ameristar in 2013. Ameristar is now the only union riverboat casino in Northwest Indiana to refuse to continue the family-supporting Union healthcare plan for its union workers.
Natalie Mijares, a 34 year old bartender and shop steward at the casino put her reason for calling the boycott this way: “When the casinos came to Northwest Indiana, they promised good jobs. Now they’re asking us to literally choose between a future of putting food on the table and our families’ health, I grew up in a Steelworker family. That means we’re proud, and we’re fighters. We’ve been in Indiana for my entire life. Pinnacle just got here. I’ll be damned if I let them destroy the standards we built.” Natalie has worked at Ameristar for 9 years and is mother of two boys.
Upon its initial launch, the boycott of Ameristar drew endorsements from Congressman Pete Visclosky, the Northwest Indiana Federation of Labor—which represents 42,000 members— United Steelworkers Local 1014, and the United Steelworkers Local 7-1 Oil Workers, currently striking at BP in Whiting, among others.