Lucky Moose and River Casino employees demand better wages
NASHUA – For more than a week, the shift managers from the Lucky Moose Casino and Tavern and The River Casino and Sports Bar have refused to return to work until their demands for higher wages have been met.
The strike began on Nov. 16 and as of Nov. 27, a deal had not been reached.
At the center of it all is Sean Johnson, the former executive director of table games at both casinos. Although he was not impacted by the pay issue, Johnson still stood with his shift managers on the picket line. As a result, Johnson was terminated by Kentucky-based ECL Entertainment, which owns Lucky Moose and The River. Prior to his termination, Johnson had been with the casinos for six years.
Johnson said company executives are fairly compensated, but it ends there. Shift managers at Lucky Moose and The River make $29 per hour whereas shift managers at Gate City Casino make $55 per hour.
“They’re brushing it off as a staffing issue, but it’s very much a strike,” he said, adding that shift managers’ responsibilities are no longer commensurate with their pay. “They take care of the executives, but they don’t take care of the little guys.”
Since they are not part of a union, Johnson is relying on persistence and strength in numbers, adding that up to 60 employees took part in the ongoing protest on Nov. 24.
“From what I understand, The River Casino has not operated its tables since the first day of the strike,” he said. “The Lucky Moose opened with a skeleton crew. There have been many reports of the table games being improperly operated by the staff who are filling in.”
Patrick Lepsic, a shift manager at The River, said the problems began when ECL took ownership of the casinos in May.
“With the new changes at the casino we all took a pay cut,” he said. “After a couple of months It became clear that this company had no intention of raising the pay to make it a livable wage in the current New Hampshire economy so we all came together to make a change.”
Thomas Manganais, a shift manager also at The River, said ECL’s latest offer was an annual salary of $68,000 for shift managers. However, he said that figure is still 40 percent lower than what is being offered at Gate City.
Manganais also described the complications he encountered regarding vacation pay.
“I had two weeks of vacation approved, only to come back from that vacation and find that one of them was denied after it occurred. So I only received pay for one week,” he said. “This one week of pay was stopped by our Human Resources representative, who in a text message to me explained they ‘didn’t want to rock the boat with corporate so soon.’ Only for me to have another vacation later in the year paid $20 less per hour, compared to my earlier vacation pay rate.”