Casino operators are promising thousands of jobs will be created when a resort casino project comes to western Massachusetts. Labor leaders are working to guarantee construction jobs go only to union workers. A civil rights leader is seeking assurances that jobs will be plentiful for people of color. WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.
Officials from the two casino companies that have so far announced plans for projects in Springfield, MGM Resorts International and Ameristar, accepted invitations to meet with Rev. Talbert Swan, president of the Springfield branch of the NAACP.
Springfield’s unemployment rate has remained stubbornly high, as high as 10 percent during some recent months. Swan said the unemployment rate for blacks is even higher.
Swan called on Springfield city officials to consider setting a minimum for minority hiring as a condition for city support for a casino project.
MGM Resorts International Chairman and CEO Jim Murren met with Swan.
MGM has proposed an $800 million development in a three block area of the south end of downtown Springfield. It is an area that sustained heavy damage in last year’s tornado.
Ameristar has proposed a casino and hotel on a 41 acre former industrial site the company purchased earlier this year for $16 million. Ameristar Vice President Troy Stremming told the Springfield City Council’s Casino Site Committee earlier this year the development would result in 2800 permanent jobs.
Ameristar has signed an agreement with the Pioneer Valley Building Trades Council and Carpenters Union Local 108 which ensures that union tradesman would build the hotel, entertainment and gambling complex, if Ameristar gets the sole license available in western Massachusetts. Frank Callahan, president of the Massachusetts Building Trades Council says union only work agreements are being sought with all potential casino developers.
Mohegan Sun has signed an agreement to use union construction workers for the casino it hopes to build in Palmer.
Union leaders, who lobbied for twenty years to get casinos legalized in Massachusetts, and are anxious for the construction jobs have complained the state’s gaming commission is moving too slowly. Under its current timetable the commission would not issue a casino license for another 12 months.
Springfield city officials and the gaming commission remain at odds over the city’s plans for selecting a casino project, or projects to back for a state license . City officials had planned to formally begin the selection competition two weeks ago, but put it on hold at the request of the gaming commission.
Commissioners told city officials during a meeting earlier this week that under the timetable the city proposes, a project could be selected before the commission has determined the casino operator is qualified to hold a license in Massachusetts.