© 2024 University of Missouri - KBIA
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Lumiere Place Halts Layoffs For 97 Longtime Workers

Tera Butler has worked at the Lumiere Place casino in downtown St. Louis since it first opened 13 years ago. She’s first in seniority among workers in the VIP room — and beloved by the casino’s regulars.

But even though the casino reopened June 1 after several months of COVID-19-related shutdown, the VIP room has remained closed. And, last week, the casino’s owners moved to lay off 97 workers, including Butler. They included a dozen or so workers who rank low in seniority but also many more longtime workers assigned to parts of the casino that have yet to reopen: the VIP room, the buffet, the wok and the valet.

Last Friday, the ownership group reversed course. Kim Bartholomew, the secretary/treasurer of Unite Here Local 74, said Caesars Entertainment returned to the negotiating table Friday after previously saying it would begin sending severance agreements.

From there, things moved swiftly. Bartholomew said on St. Louis on the Air that both parties signed off on an agreement Monday morning. She said she could not discuss details but confirmed that it allows the 97 workers to stay on a recall list rather than be laid off.

The workers still haven’t been given a date to come back to Lumiere Place, she said. But if the VIP room and other shuttered parts of the hotel/casino complex reopen before April 2021, the workers keep their accrued pay rate and placement on the seniority list.

Caesars Entertainment’s apparent reversal followed publicity about the layoffs that included social media pleas from workers like Butler, news coverage and even a petition urging the company to revisit the layoffs.

Bartholomew said she believes such efforts paid off, citing “a lot of the things we did to make this a little bit more public, to make them understand that it’s not just the workers there, but St. Louis as a whole, the community as a whole.” She added, “We have to start looking out for each other here.”

Bartholomew said the Lumiere Place employees have worked together so long, “they feel like a family.”

Caesars Entertainment did not respond to a message seeking comment.

On Friday, Bartholomew had said that she found the company’s decision to terminate the recall list inexplicable.

“What I don’t understand is, you’re not spending any more money,” Bartholomew said. “The only thing I can deduce is that you don’t want these people there for some reason.” She had speculated that Caesars wanted to replace the experienced workers with cheaper ones when places like the VIP room eventually reopen — or shed senior employees before the union contract comes up next year. “You’re getting rid of the diehard people.”

Overall, due to the ongoing pandemic, 70% of the workers represented by Unite Here Local 74 are still not back to work, Bartholomew said.

“It’s hit the hospitality industry, and anyone who represents the hospitality industry, pretty hard,” she said.

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

Copyright 2021 St. Louis Public Radio. To see more, visit St. Louis Public Radio.

Sarah Fenske joined St. Louis Public Radio as host of St. Louis on the Air in July 2019. Before that, she spent twenty years in newspapers, working as a reporter, columnist and editor in Cleveland, Houston, Phoenix, Los Angeles and St. Louis. She won the Livingston Award for Young Journalists for her work in Phoenix exposing corruption at the local housing authority. She also won numerous awards for column writing, including multiple first place wins from the Arizona Press Club, the Association of Women in Journalism (the Clarion Awards) and the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. From 2015 to July 2019, Sarah was editor in chief of St. Louis' alt-weekly, the Riverfront Times. She and her husband, John, are raising their two young daughters and ill-behaved border terrier in Lafayette Square.