Betting on Graton - Page 2

Newest casino targeting Bay Area residents promises to share the wealth with workers and people of color

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Placido Lopez, a dealer at Graton and a member of the Graton Rancheria tribe, awaits customers on opening day.
Yael Chanoff

Station spokesperson Lori Nelson told us by email the company is "excited to welcome residents from the Bay Area as we invite them all out to check out the newest entertainment destination created just for them."

Nelson emphasized that Graton is targeting Bay Area customers.

"In fact, our advertising campaign that's been on the air and on billboards the past few weeks even reads 'From Bay to Play in 43 Minutes,'" Nelson wrote.

That "43 minutes" can be more like a couple hours on traffic congested days such as opening day. But increased congestion aside, Graton's location 50 miles from San Francisco is a jackpot for Station. It was also key to the leverage Sarris had when he hired Station to manage Graton, using that leverage to require a worker-friendly operation.

When Sarris was looking to hire a management company, he invited representatives from the many interested firms to his living room, pitting them against each other.

"I did create what I like to call a cock fight," Sarris tells us.

Sarris' conditions were audacious. He wanted full tribal control of the development board, a LEED-certified green building, and $200 million upfront. But the condition that made most companies back down, he said, was his demand for living wages and benefits right off the bat, and the option for workers to unionize once the casino opened.

"The union thing was a deal breaker for everyone else. Station even had a problem with it," Sarris said. "But it was my way or the highway on that one."

 

RIPPLE EFFECT?

In Las Vegas, Culinary Union Local 226 — a UNITE HERE affiliate — has been waging a campaign against Station since 2010. Its website devoted to Station workers' struggle includes a list of 88 instances of alleged unfair labor practices committed by Station and calls the company called "rabidly anti-union."

But in Rohnert Park, UNITE HERE and Station have been working together.

"We're optimistic that our relationship here can be very different," said Huber. "I think that the tribe has had a really positive influence on bringing us together in California in a way that is not the case in Las Vegas."

At Sarris' urging, the casino was built with 100 percent union labor. It created about 700 jobs. And Jack Buckhorn, president of the North Bay Labor Council, said that 75 percent of people hired to build Graton were Sonoma County residents.

"These were long-term jobs. It really helped out as we're recovering from this great recession," Buckhorn said. "These were all really good jobs."

That 75 percent local hire rate is impressive compared to some construction projects with similar price tags in San Francisco. After neighborhood activism, the $1.5 billion UCSF Mission Bay Hospital has maintained a rate of 20 percent local hire. And the Golden State Warriors have been praised for its promise of 25 percent local hire for construction of its proposed arena on Piers 30-32.

Sarris says that his commitment to good working conditions at Graton is rooted in history.

"I believe in dignity in the workplace," Sarris said. "Let's not forget the way we labored in kitchens and fields with low wages and no benefits."

Workers' rights are just one part of the vision Graton's tribal council has for the casino, which also includes a bevy of social programs, more than $25 million annually for parks and open spaces in Sonoma County, and an organic farm.

"We see Graton as a means to an end," said Joanne Campbell, a 12-year tribal council member.

With Graton's opening, Sarris isn't just the leader of a tribe that's about to get rich. He has influence in Sonoma County, and he says he intends to use it to fight injustice.

Comments

Posted by Guest on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 5:48 pm

The Graton casino is opposed by 68% of Sonoma County residents. Stop Graton Casino is currently in court suing Jerry Brown for giving this casino a gambling Compact in violation of state law. Our position is that because sovereignty over the casino site was never legally transferred to the federal government as required by existing law, the land is still governed by state law, and casino-style gambling is illegal on state-governed land. We are asking the court to enforce existing law. Courts can and do shut down tribal casinos, even after they have opened. This happened as recently as August 2013, when the Keetowah casino in Oklahoma was shut down after being open for close to 20 years. You can learn more at our website, www.stopgratoncasino.com or follow us on Facebook.

Posted by Guest Stop Graton Casino on Nov. 07, 2013 @ 12:45 pm

Sick of people trying to tell others where they can go and what they can do.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 07, 2013 @ 2:00 pm

This is a federal and state issue which the NIMBYs of Sonoma have no control over - much to their anger. Haven't native people been through enough without the privileged people of Wine Country trying to snatch subsistence out of their mouths?

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 1:47 pm

You have drunk the casino kool-aid, my friend! Your comments about having no control shows the public's ignorance on this issue. If you choose to educate yourself, you can read the legal Complaint on www.stopgratoncasino.com and see the arguments. The lawsuit against Jerry Brown that only seeks to enforce existing, established state law, inclduing case law, is viable.

As a resident of Sonoma County, I can assure you that this project is immensely unpopular. We're not NIMBY's. This is the first urban casino in California. It is a non-conforming project that was built with no permits or inspections, and not even a shop steward on site during construction.

Family and friends of Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein and Jerry Brown made money off this project.

How well was it built, and how much does Graton's Greg Sarris care about his employees? Well, we know they cheaped out on the ventilation system in violation of their state gaming Compact. They were suppose to install a state of the art system, but everyone who goes there complains about the smoke. Read Yelp! and the casino's Facebook reviews if you don't believe me.

Or read this letter (link below) to the Editor of the Press Democrat from former public health officer Dr. George Flores. He actually warns female employees who are "pregnant or of childbearing age" to seek employment elsewhere, and says that people with heart or breathing problems and children should stay away for the Graton casino. How can they allow their employees to work in an environment that Dr. Flores clearly states is a health hazard? http://pressdemocrat.com/article/20131129/opinion/131129496

Posted by Mari WIlson on Dec. 05, 2013 @ 10:40 am

'... California's newest casino has STEEP PROFIT projections, based largely on its proximity to the Bay Area. "Winning Just Got Closer," ... '

Zero sum game.

Steep casino profits means steep losses for others gambling, so the slogan "Winning Just Got Closer" actually means "Losing Just Got Closer"

Posted by Guest on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 12:44 pm

Stop attempting to nanny everyone from cradle to grave.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 1:49 pm

come heroin is illegal?

Gambling is a bane to humanity on par with heroin abuse.

I remember driving through Lake Tahoe in the wee hours of the morning and caught site of a basement floor gambling parlor with rows and rows of one-armed bandits.

It was like I had found myself peering into the window of an abattior. Those people were in awful shape. I'd much rather have seen a bunch of junkies, shoeless and nodding off; at least they would have looked peaceful.

F this "enlightened, progressive, gambling" BS.

Posted by lillipublicans on Nov. 12, 2013 @ 12:07 pm

but most of us are fine with gambling, and it's a total non-issue in many countries.

Prohibition (of alcohol) didn't work out well either, while Nevada seems to be doing OK with both gambling and prostitution.

I'm a Republican but I certainly have no desire to ban people on sinning if that is what they want to do.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 12, 2013 @ 12:23 pm

SFBG is so busy falling all over itself praising Greg Sarris, it missed the biggest story about him: he's not a California Native American. The ancestor he claims was Native of Pomo and Miwok descent was really Black, and her family was not from Marin and Sonoma county, it was from the East Coast. You can read all about what most Native Americans already know at http://sarrisancestryreport.com

Posted by CalNativeTruth on Nov. 30, 2013 @ 3:50 pm

You have drunk the casino kool-aid, my friend! Your comments about having no control shows the public's ignorance on this issue. If you choose to educate yourself, you can read the legal Complaint on www.stopgratoncasino.com and see the arguments. The lawsuit against Jerry Brown that only seeks to enforce existing, established state law, inclduing case law, is viable.

As a resident of Sonoma County, I can assure you that this project is immensely unpopular. We're not NIMBY's. This is the first urban casino in California. It is a non-conforming project that was built with no permits or inspections, and not even a shop steward on site during construction.

Family and friends of Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein and Jerry Brown made money off this project.

How well was it built, and how much does Graton's Greg Sarris care about his employees? Well, we know they cheaped out on the ventilation system in violation of their state gaming Compact. They were suppose to install a state of the art system, but everyone who goes there complains about the smoke. Read Yelp! and the casino's Facebook reviews if you don't believe me.

Or read this letter (link below) to the Editor of the Press Democrat from former public health officer Dr. George Flores. He actually warns female employees who are "pregnant or of childbearing age" to seek employment elsewhere, and says that people with heart or breathing problems and children should stay away for the Graton casino. How can they allow their employees to work in an environment that Dr. Flores clearly states is a health hazard? http://pressdemocrat.com/article/20131129/opinion/131129496

Posted by Mari WIlson on Dec. 05, 2013 @ 10:41 am

Ain't going to happen Marty Bennett. Good pay and great benefits. I am a member of Unite Here 2850 from the Sheraton. You, Wei-lIng Huber and the rest are disgusting people who only want our money for your immigration reform lobbying activities. Yes they give money to your NBL Cooalition. Talk about conflict of interest.

Don't forget to mention that Locai 2850 is under federal investigation based on charges I filed with the NLRB. I now work for Graton. Stay away.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2013 @ 9:15 am

Mr. Sarris,

You have created a good place to work and stamped your name and the tribes name on it.
Why promote a union? Do you think the employees you call "team members" need protection from you? Makes no sense. You pay us good and provide excellent benefits. Get out of bed with Marty Bennett and We-Ling Huber

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2013 @ 9:37 am

Not going to happen Marty and Wei-Ling. You have underestimated reality. I am a member of the Local 2850 from the Sheraton. I now work for Graton. Great pay and benefits. We do not need you. Furthermore you are so excited because you stand to more than double your immigration reform political action find. Card check?

I am way ahead of you. That is a dirty trick that prevent a real vote by smart people.

Stay away. Don't forget to mention the federal cherges file against you with the National Labor Relations Board.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2013 @ 9:22 am

What is wrong with a vote conducted by a neutral entity instead of a card check which means no real vote. ....notoriously offer a window of time for management to harass and intimidate workers..... Wow you must think that people are stupid. This is not the 1940's when "workers" were mistreated. This is 2013 where information is very easy to find and people can make informed intelligent decisions. Card check neutrality allows the union operatives to go lie as they pick and choose who they want to talk to, trick into signing the card pretending it is "an opportunity to join signature". In fact it is a secret vote that the union uses by abusing federal law. Google card check neutrality to see the truth and injustice. Unite Here Local 2850, go to hell! Stay out of our paycheck with your $100 initiation fees and daily withdrawal from our pockets!

If we want to donate money to immigration reform issues we can do that without you doing it for us. You are a Political Action Committee not a union. You offer no pension, no benefits - nothing. Yes I am a member transplanted from the Sheraton as well. Screw you.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2013 @ 2:13 pm

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