Philly casino worker says he was fired for supporting union

A former employee of SugarHouse Casino says he was fired in retaliation for supporting efforts to unionize the casino’s workforce.

Cory Ballard had worked on the casino floor for nine months. After he signed on in favor of unionization, he says he was fired on what he called trumped-up charges.

“From here I’m not going to stop fighting. My co-workers are here to support me. I’m here to support them, because this is bigger than myself,” said Ballard outside SugarHouse’s corporate offices, after trying to deliver a petition signed by his co-workers asking for this reinstatement.

“This could happen to any one of my co-workers. That’s why they came out to support me,” he said.

Employees alleged that workers affiliated with the unionizing effort and minority workers were being targeted for termination.

One quarter of the employees on the union organizing committee, the public face of the effort since August have been laid off. Ballard was not a member of that committee.

“We take great pride in our SugarHouse team, and respect the rights of our employees to choose,” said Wendy Hamilton, general manager at SugarHouse Casino, in a written statement.

She said Pennsylvania’s Gaming Board has found SugarHouse to be “No. 1 among Pennsylvania’s casinos in recruitment and retention of women and minorities.”

“I have a real concern that a casino that’s marketing itself to a city that’s a majority of color is letting loose many of their staff of color … and that they’re taking the money of the people here, but not doing anything to boost the economy by continuing to support workers that live within and near the city confines,” said Bishop Dwayne Royster, who accompanied Ballard.

Analyzing numbers SugarHouse reported to the state, the Casino Workers Union Local 54 found that minority employees were 15 percent more likely to be let go.

“When it was built, there was the expectation that SugarHouse would be a good corporate citizen,” Royster said.

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