In recent months, religious leaders of all faiths in South Florida have met workers from Mardi Gras Casino in Hallandale. They are housekeepers, dishwashers, cooks, and cashiers who have chosen to exercise their legal right to bargain collectively. These workers are striving to improve their working conditions and living standards.
I was disturbed to find out that the Mardi Gras management team chose to fire 10 workers leading this organizing effort. Shortly after presenting themselves as worker-leaders, these 10 workers, mostly African-American and Haitian women, were promptly fired just prior to Christmas and Chanukah. I and other religious leaders believe the dismissal of worker-leaders who voice their desire to be represented in a union is shameful.
Mr. Adkins forgets that Mardi Gras was dependent on the community to legalize gaming in South Florida. The local community took a leap of faith and trusted the casino's promises of good jobs. Mardi Gras is located in a largely minority neighborhood and is staffed almost entirely by minority and immigrant workers. They are parents and grandparents working hard to make ends meet while working jobs in which substantive wage increase has been a dream long deferred. Instead, some have experienced wages cut by as much as $2 an hour. This mistreatment of workers is prohibited in our scriptures and should not be tolerated.
Gaming companies in Florida cannot be allowed to suppress workers. Together we must tell this industry that casino workers must be treated with the highest respect, beginning with Mardi Gras. When two members of our community -- an Episcopal priest and the director of South Florida Interfaith Worker Justice -- sought to meet with Mr. Adkins in an effort to help the workers, they were surrounded by security while Mr. Adkins allegedly hurled expletives at them. He apparently not only insulted them, but also explicitly insulted the Episcopal Church. We call on Mardi Gras' owners, Herbert Tyner and Bernard Hartman, to take swift action to remedy this situation before their reputations are irrevocably sullied. The casino must reinstate the 10 Mardi Gras worker-leaders.
We are called to hold up the dignity and respect of all people, especially the most vulnerable among us. We stand in support of the just and ethical treatment of workers and against the abuse of power by any individual or institution with respect to their workers.
"Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbor, 'Come back later. I'll give it tomorrow,' when you have it with you now."