Richmond casino campaign promises fair construction jobs with new labor agreement

There is a new addition to a familiar ballot question. Richmond Grand Resort and Casino is now offering a project labor agreement.
Published: Sep. 26, 2023 at 6:22 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) -There is a new addition to a familiar ballot question.

Richmond Grand Resort and Casino is now offering a project labor agreement. It promises jobs for local trade workers and fair-paying wages. Though some remain skeptical.

It is a promise the casino would be built by people already living in the area, and those residents would then make good money and have real benefits, helping boost the local economy.

This was not a part of the referendum the last time it was on the ballot, and casino campaigners think it could help sway voters.

“This project offers so many Richmonders an opportunity for a pathway directly into the middle class. I think they should really think long and hard about does that make sense for them in their community. To vote no, for something that’s gonna give so many people a great opportunity,” President of the Richmond Area Building and Construction and Trades Council Charles Skelly said.

Richmond Area Building and Construction and Trades Council is the union working with the project in the pre-hire agreement with the Richmond contractor Hourigan. The goal is to hire local people and promote apprenticeship opportunities for them.

“All too often, construction projects have unscrupulous contractors that don’t follow the law and cheat workers out of wages they earned or misclassify workers as independent contractors. This agreement ensures that doesn’t happen,” Skelly said.

The union employs people like Eugene Murphy, who was previously incarcerated but recently became a trade worker.

“Becoming affiliated with our union afforded me opportunities I never thought that I would be able to take advantage of, not with my history and my social status, not the neighborhoods that I’m from that are on the other side. We have every opportunity to grow and flourish,” Murphy said.

Some are still not convinced that construction jobs are a reason to vote yes. Richmond pastor Ralph Hodge says it’s temporary work and highlights it is not really adding jobs to the economy.

“It’s not going to be a job that you can count on for 10 years or 20 years. You’re not going to retire from a construction job at a casino resort,” Hodge said.

While the construction jobs would be high paying, he wants transparency on the hospitality employment.

He says the casino keeps advertising an average pay of $55,000, but that is misleading. He wants voters to know what the specific numbers are and wants those put out to the public.

“The median income tells you what’s the halfway point. Half of the workers [are] gonna make at least as much, and half of the workers gonna make below this much. If the median income was 55,000 or more, that’d be significant,” Hodge said.

Hodge says the construction jobs are only “year one” of the project, and he wants to see what the pay is like for individual “year two” jobs, like those actually working inside the casino.

“Those jobs are the first year, mostly construction, mid-level high-level staff jobs, they’re not going to be this average job salary,” Hodge said. “That’s going to be when those in year two and year three. The first year is your construction jobs, and those wages are set, and they are typically higher. Once you get into year two, and year three, that’s when you’re hiring your all your staff, your cleaning, your cleaning staff, your support staff, your waitstaff.”

The Richmond Grand Resort and Casino plans to have another announcement Thursday on the hospitality jobs.