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New Union at Divi Casino on Hold Pending Hearing

Nov. 27, 2007 — Employees at Divi Carina Bay Casino on St. Croix voted Nov. 9 to unionize under the name Our Virgin Islands Labor Union (OVILU), but challenges have kept the union from taking action.
The Division of Gaming Enforcement has contested the union's standing, and the Casino Control Commission has blocked the union from acting until a hearing is held.
"In the National Labor Relations Board election last week, our employees voted in favor of OVILU 57 to 49," said Anton Kuipers, general manager of Divi Carina Bay Casino, in the casino's recent public announcement of the union vote. "Our employees have told us loud and clear that they want a significant change in labor-management relations at the casino. We are listening, and also need change to position the casino for continued, long-term success."
The casino will "immediately recognize and shortly begin the process of negotiating a collective-bargaining agreement with Our Virgin Islands Labor Union," according to a Divi news release.
On Nov. 15, R. Oliver David, director of the Division of Gaming Enforcement, filed a motion with the Casino Control Commission to block Divi from negotiating with OVILU. Citing chapter and verse of V.I. law in his motion, David said OVILU must register with and be certified by the commission before it can legally represent casino employees.
"Upon information and belief, Our Virgin Islands Labor Union has not registered with the Casino Control Commission," David wrote.
The next day, the commission issued an order saying OVILU is not registered with the commission and directing Divi to cease any negotiations "until a further Order (sic)" of the commission.
The commission has scheduled a hearing on the issue for Dec. 27, David said in a phone interview Tuesday.
"Basically, there are certain regulations and laws with regard to all entities connected with casinos," David said. "The commission will have to hear both sides and make a decision. A complaint has been filed, the date has been set and, at that time, the commission will make a determination. In the meantime, they've issued an order to stay negotiations pending their decision."
OVILU President Ricky Brown confirmed Tuesday the union has received the order and that it is, in fact, not yet registered with the commission. The union takes responsibility for filing the appropriate applications, he said, but faulted the commission and Divi for not raising the issue sooner.
"I'm not trying to discount our role," Brown said. "But we called Casino Control several times in September. The commission was fully aware of our intent. We failed, but they knew and failed to say. So we have a delay."
The union is putting together application paperwork for the union and its leaders, Brown said, and he expects everything will be in order before the December hearing. Meanwhile, he said the union is the legitimate bargaining unit for the casino under federal law and so should have little difficulty with certification.
"For the record, we are a bona fide local labor organization," he said. "The employees voted OVILU to represent them, and since then the National Labor Relations Board certification was issued."
The delay is disheartening for casino employees, Brown said.
"Because it has taken this long, I hope they don't lose faith," he said. "But we are moving forward. There are a lot of areas that need some adjustment, and we are looking forward to starting negotiations."
Kuipers is looking forward to negotiations, too, according to Divi's news release.
"We are prepared to begin the difficult process of negotiating a collective-bargaining agreement that will allow the casino to continue to thrive in the face of likely competition and other challenges inherent in doing business on St. Croix," Kuipers said. "The challenges on both sides will be great as there are many new issues to work out, but with the positive attitude signaled by OVILU as the employees' new chosen representative, we believe we can work hard in good faith to hammer out an agreement that will best meet the mutual goals of labor and management alike."
Divi Carina Bay Casino is located on the east end of St. Croix. Treasure Bay V.I. Corp, which operates the casino, is the V.I.-based subsidiary of Treasure Bay, a casino-management company based in Biloxi, Miss.
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