Teamsters protest as Twin River Casino valets and drivers await callback at RI

Posted: July 21, 2021, 11:10 a.m.

Last update on: July 22, 2021, 3:09 a.m.

A Teamsters union said more than three dozen valets and drivers had been off work for too long and wanted their Rhode Island casino employer to bring them back.

Twin River valets
The main entrance to the Twin River Casino hotel in Lincoln, RI is where valets worked before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, more than 16 months after their leave, local Teamsters leaders want the more than three dozen valets and shuttle drivers back to work. (Image: Bally’s Corp.)

The workers were officially fired from the Twin River Casino hotel in Lincoln on September 30, according to a notice posted on the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training website. A year ago next week, Twin River announced that potentially more than 1,040 workers laid off after the forced COVID-19 shutdown in March 2020 could turn into permanent layoffs.

The layoffs were due to the gradual reopening of casinos suffered after being closed for months last year. The reopening phases included reduced hours, mandatory social distancing and capacity restrictions as well as a three-week shutdown in December as coronavirus cases increased.

Casino capacity restrictions were officially lifted on May 21. However, not all amenities have reopened, including the 136-room hotel.

Yet in a press release on Monday, Teamsters Local 251 accused the casino owned and operated by Bally’s Corp. to play games with workers who he says served as the first point of contact for customers when they arrived at Twin River before the pandemic.

“Our members at Twin River are fully capable, willing and qualified to return to duty immediately,” said Matthew Taibi, local manager. “They have always provided exceptional customer service to customers who visit the casino from all over New England. It’s time for Twin River to call them back to work.

Jacks and casino drivers back in September

In a statement to Bally’s executive director of public relations Diane Spiers said on Tuesday that Twin River would resume valet parking in a few months.

“The health and safety of our employees and guests continue to be of critical importance to us as we emerge from the global pandemic,” Spiers said. “Twin River Casino plans to reopen valet parking in September, and we will be contacting our employees directly on a specific date.”

Union officials did not return several messages to a reporter looking for comments.

The Providence TV channel CNB 10 spoke to a few dismissed union members about their situation. Cory Almeida, who worked as a casino valet for 16 years, told the station his family lost their health insurance with the layoff. He also had to empty his 401 (k) to pay his bills.

Since they are unemployed due to COVID-19, union members are eligible for the $ 300 pandemic unemployment grant that the federal government has added to unemployment checks. But Almeida said that was not the advantage some claimed to be.

The general population thinks that everyone who is unemployed earns more from unemployment, ”Almeida said. “I can assure you, us valets, we haven’t done more on unemployment from the start.”

The pandemic grant is expected to end on September 6.

Twin River bounces back from COVID-19

Like other US casinos, Twin River has had a good run since COVID-19 vaccines became available to a larger segment of the population, and income data is starting to reach pre-pandemic levels.

In May, Twin River reported net income of $ 31 million from video lottery terminals. This was the highest revenue since the casino took in $ 34.3 million in February 2020. However, as there were still restrictions in place for the month, this May revenue tally is intervened despite the fact that the Twin River game room had over 1,100 fewer games available (2,979 to 4,098).

Table games, which in May were limited to a maximum of four players per table, have seen revenue increase as restrictions have been relaxed. However, they are still behind the pre-pandemic totals.

Net income from table games in May was $ 7 million, the best month since reopening. However, this would have been the lowest full month of fiscal 2020. Additionally, monthly table game revenue for fiscal 2019 has never been less than $ 10.3 million.

June figures are not yet available.

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