After suffering two deaths from COVID-19 amidst a struggle for affordable health care and safer working conditions, casino workers are stepping up their struggle. On May 15, more than 100 workers in their cars descended on the Indiana Statehouse and Indianapolis city center with their horns blaring and demands clear: “Make our workplaces safe!” “Don’t gamble with our Health!”
UNITE HERE locals 1 and 23, IUOE local 399, and Teamsters locals 89 and 135 from Indiana and Illinois organized across state lines to support workers at the Indiana Grand Casino (which recently unionized) and Caesars Southern Indiana Casino in their struggle for union health insurance, safe and compliant work conditions amid a global pandemic, and the necessary staffing to secure their demands.
These demands come after a prolonged struggle with outrageously high deductibles, inconsistent care and negligent company oversight. Tanda Ems, a janitorial worker at Caesars Southern Indiana for 17 years, shared her experience with health care provider Signa, telling Liberation News why she needs union health insurance. “I take care of my adopted grandson,” she said, “and he needs three inhalers a day including other prescription meds, the deductible is $3,000 and I don’t know if I am covered after I pay the deductible. So, I have to choose between the medicine or a roof over our heads.”
Gregg Miller, a worker at the Caesars Southern Indiana Casino, spoke of similar reality: “I am here because I have to ration my insulin and medications in order to get by. The deductibles are too high, the insurance does not cover the costs, and the insulin prices makes it even more expensive altogether.
Shena Collins elaborated similar complaints about deductible prices reaching as high as $3,500 at the Indiana Grand Casino. Just one of the 15 medications her daughter needs is $1,500 a month.
Casino workers echo what all workers across the country feel, which is that they are suffering for the sake of profit while lacking adequate health care, working conditions and staffing. During a global pandemic, their suffering and the need for collective strength to fight back only becomes heightened.
The struggle for affordable health insurance, CDC compliant work spaces amidst a pandemic and sufficient staffing are not exclusive to casino workers. Rather, it’s one example of how capitalists and their politicians sacrifice our lives for profit. It is up to us as workers to collectively struggle for our health, well being and future because the capitalist class and their politicians have not and will not. In Indiana and Illinois, casino workers are leading the way.