Placeholder Image photo credit: Pauma Casino/I-5 Designs
Interior of Pauma Casino on the Pauma 
Indian Reservation north of San Diego.

Casino workers from across California - lead by unionized employees at Rohnert Park’s Graton Resort and Casino - showed up in force Wednesday in Sacramento, meeting with elected officials and rallying for workers rights.

California casinos are big business - nearly 80 tribal casinos sprinkled up and down the state bring in billions in revenues each year - even outstripping revenues in Nevada at times.

At Graton Resort and Casino in Rohnert Park, considered a Class 3 or “Vegas style” casino, employees have long been organized with the Unite Here union, and recently renewed their contract.

A contract, Aamir Deen, President of Unite Here’s Local 49 union said should be a model around California.

"The Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria really are showing the way of how to respect their workers and be successful at the same time," Deen said. "And that's what we want for all tribal casino workers and all tribal casinos, and that's what we're here at the Capitol for."

Deen explained.

"They are the first hospitality workers in a tribal casino in California to have a pension," Deen said.

Over 400 tribal casino workers took to Capitol Hill in Sacramento as part of an organized advocacy day, just a small fraction of the tribal casino workforce in California organized with Unite Here, said Mario Yedidia, western political director for the union.

"6,000 of them are in 10 Indian casinos across California," Yedidia said. "We have agreements to organize at seven more."

Yedidia said Unite Here sees tribal sovereignty and workers rights as connected - a way for both tribal members and casino workers to find economic stability.

"I'm talking about communities that are less urban, more conservative than the stereotypical political image of dark blue California," Yedidia said. "Tribal casino jobs, along with maybe public employment in the local prison or the county government, they're the most significant area of employment."

For Deen, Wednesday’s action in Sacramento is about ensuring the many workers at California's dozens of non-unionized casinos have a fair chance to organize and bargain for fair conditions.

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