Niagara Gazette

October 31, 2013

GLYNN: 'Racino' employees in line for hefty pay raise

By DON GLYNN don.glynn@niagara-gazette.com
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Employees at the Seneca Niagara Casino and at the tribe’s facilities in Buffalo and Salamanca may wish they worked elsewhere when they hear about the new pay scale at racinos.

For the uninitiated, the “racinos” are actually casinos that have large slot machine parlors at or near racetracks. At present, the state has five Indian-operated casinos and nine racinos. If Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature succeed in the plan, the state Constitutional amendment will add seven full-blown casinos to the mix. 

Specific sites have not yet been determined but the additional upstate casinos would not be located anywhere near the present Indian-run operations. 

Some local residents, mindful of the suggestion by state Sen. Earl W. Brydges some 40 years ago — that legalized casino gambling could bolster the Western New York economy — must surely think they’re in a time warp. For decades the state lawmakers failed to agree on the casino proposal.

At a glance, the racino workers will soon be making a  lot more money that their counterparts at the casinos. Based on the new agreement with some 1,400 racino workers which the Hotel Trades Council announced Monday, their wages will rise from an average $10.15 an hour to $19.91 immediately. By 2016, it is estimated, their average wage will reach $28.54. A council spokesman said that in the final year of the new contract, most of the racino workers will make over $60,000. The union represents the New York Hotel & Motel Trades Council, AFL-CIO. 

Some other benefits the trades council lists as a blueprint that could show the way for future contracts with the gaming industry throughout the state:

• By 2016, a full-time kitchen employee will make $57,679 a year; a full-time cleaner will get $54,341; and a full-time security officer, $55,617.

*Wages for food court employees (e.g. at Popeye’s) will start at $22.98 an hour and rise to $32.94 by 2016.

Even allowing for the upstate vs. downstate standard-of-living costs, that pay scale is a sharp departure from the average pay of employees at the Indian-operated casinos in Western New York.(In fact, it is common knowledge that any talk of organizing a union at the Seneca Niagara Casino would probably be your ticket out of the place.) The pact also provides for free family health care, free training programs for career development and retirement security for workers.

Some political observers cite the timing of the new contract, with the Cuomo administration pushing to expand casinos upstate as part of the governor’s economic development strategy for job creation.

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STARTED IN D.C.: Donald P. Zeifang, 77, a Niagara Falls native who launched his legal career as a clerk for U.S. District Court Judge John J. Sirica, died Sunday (Oct. 27, 2013) in Falls Church, Va.

A graduate of Notre Dame University and Georgetown University Law Center, Zeifang held a key post with the National Association of Broadcasters and led the NAB’s work on rewriting the 1934 Federal Communications Act. A member and partner of a Washington law firm for more than 20 years, he also was licensed to practice at the U.S. Supreme Court. Zeifang was a 1954  graduate of Bishop Duffy High School. Survivors include his wife, Kathleen, a son, Michael, and a daughter, Laura.

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TRIVIA: In what upstate city in New York was the Western Union company founded in 1857? (Answer Sunday)

Contact Reporter Don Glynn at 282-2311, ext. 2246.