PLAINS TWP. – About 60 members of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union Local 163 picketed outside Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs on Wednesday to protest against out-of-town contractors working on the hotel under construction.
Michael Kwashnik, the organization's business manager, said the group was protesting the use of Springfield, Mo.-based Killian Construction as the project's general contractor and Life Safety Group, also of Missouri, as subcontractor of the project.
Kwashnik said few local union electricians were hired to work on the $50 million project and those that were are not being paid according to area wage standards.
They are paying less than the wages in the area, Kwashnik said. They are treating us (Luzerne County residents) as second class, and that's not right.
Work recently began on the 238-room hotel and events center slated to be completed in a year.
The facility will include a 20,000-square-foot events center with a banquet room that can handle up to 600 for events and 1,500 for concerts. The hotel will also have a fitness center, indoor pool, ground-floor bistro and meeting rooms.
Killian Construction is leading the construction, though most of the work is being subcontracted to local companies, casino general manager Mike Bean said.
About 95 percent of those performing the work are local, Bean said. About 50 percent of the work… has been awarded to union trades.
Bean said the award of work was based on the competitiveness of bids.
Kwashnik said his union offered to do the work if paid wage standards and benefits and received no reply. He said a meeting was held last week with Mohegan Sun representatives in a last effort to get the work.
At the meeting, Kwashnik said, workers handed over players cards to demonstrate that if the casino would not support them, they would not support the casino.
I don't think it's fair. They are lowering the standard of living in Luzerne County, Kwashnik said, noting his union worked on the original Mohegan Sun building.
Bean said local unions were given the opportunity to be competitive with Killian, but Killian was the lowest bidder.
The meeting last week, Bean said, was an extra effort on behalf of Mohegan Sun to give the union another opportunity to bid.
Our view is that given this entire facility was built with union labor and the fact that the folks protesting were given an opportunity, we are disappointed they took this approach, Bean said.
Sheena Delazio, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 829-7235.