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Casino workers protest outside Baltimore’s City Hall in hopes of improving work conditions

A group of Horseshoe Casino table game dealers and workers staged a "Don't Gamble with Our Lives" rally at City Hall to demand safer work environment.

Casino workers gathered outside Baltimore’s City Hall on Wednesday afternoon to raise awareness about safety and public health concerns relating to their jobs.

About 20 people wearing red shirts distributed “Don’t Gamble With Our Lives!” signs adorned with the UAW Local 17 union logo. Most said they worked at Horseshoe Casino, though they also wanted to represent the concerns of employees from all of Maryland’s six privately owned casinos.

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Krista Brewer, who helped organize the event, said the protesters aimed to capture the local government’s attention after repeatedly asking casino managers to implement greater safety precautions such as installing plexiglass around tables and having a designated cleaning crew.

“We love working at Horseshoe,” Brewer said. “We don’t want to see a shutdown. We want to see safety.”

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The protest came one day after Maryland casino general managers told state lawmakers Tuesday that they’ve had workers who don’t want to return over health concerns.

Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, closed the casinos in mid-March, at the beginning of what became a quick succession of shutdown orders culminating in a stay-at-home order March 30. Casinos were allowed to start reopening in June, provided they followed health and safety recommendations, which included requiring masks and operating at only 50% of their usual capacity.

But Brewer, who works at the Baltimore casino as a dealer and floor supervisor, said mask implementation has been left to supervisors and other managers on top of a new long lists of tasks, which can make it hard to ensure people are properly wearing masks.

She also said much of the cleaning is left up to the dealers but that employees were not given proper training. They also aren’t given gloves and can’t leave to wash their hands, Brewer said, and now some are having reactions from the chemicals.

Mikhael Bailey was eager to get back to work after the shutdown.

The 27-year-old Mount Vernon resident said at first that he felt fairly safe because Horseshoe strictly implemented the mask policy and social distancing guidelines. But as time went on, Bailey said, managers relaxed and stopped urging patrons to properly wear their masks, putting the burden on dealers to implement the rules.

Bailey is now on the second week of a 30-day unpaid leavebecause he felt unsafe. He said the casino started opening tables next to one another, eliminating social distancing.

“Management doesn’t want to put their foot down,” he said. “If you can’t keep your workers alive and safe, what’s the point of being open?”

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