Local 1305 member and Business Manager Ron Rheaume was interviewed as part of Boston National Public Radio affiliate WBUR's coverage of a casino proposal in Taunton. The Mashpee Wampanoags unveiled their proposal for a $500 million 150,000 square-foot resort-style casino last week. It is expected to create 1,000 union construction jobs.
Legislation legalizing casino gaming in Massachusetts passed last year allows for up to three casino licenses and one slot parlor licencse to be granted. The state was divided into three geographic regions, within which one of the licenses can be granted. The license designated for southeastern Massachusetts is being reserved for a period to allow Native Americans to propose and negotiate with the state for that region's license.
Last year Local 218 Carpenter Bill Frost became quite a visible supporter of the legalization and construction of resort casinos in Massachusetts. He spoke at hearing and rallies, eventually writing and reading a commentary in support of casinos at the request of WBUR, a Boston National Public Radio affiliate. Frost's commentary was honored with a national award from Public Radio News Directors Incorporated.
Brother Bill Frost, a member of Carpenters Local 218 spoke this week at a Massachusetts State Senate hearing on the issue of expanding casino gaming in the Commonwealth. Earlier this year, Frost spoke at a rally before a lobby day by union members at the State House when the House of Representatives were considering their own bill. (more from that event here.
At a time when Frost was working steadily, his wife was struck with cancer. Feeling lucky to have health coverage, Frost was able to focus entirely on helping his wife fight for her life. Now, after a long stretch of unemployment, Frost can't help but wonder what would happen if his wife's cancer had come now. How would he pay for her treatment? And much would his support of her have suffered from the distraction of worrying about the bills rather than his wife?
This week, he spoke about the response to his earlier statements and gave insight into the real impact of long-term unemployment.
First, let me apologize for my appearance, I wouldn’t show up to speak dressed like this, except I’ve been lucky enough to have been called back to work and I came directly from the job. After the year that I had, blowing off a full days pay was out of the question.
When Speaker DeLeo first kicked off this push for destination casinos, I was invited up here to The Hill for the first time to speak about job creation and what those jobs would mean to unemployed construction workers.
I told of my wife’s battle with breast cancer, and how I could focus on her needs because I had steady work and excellent health coverage. I explained that if I were today, faced with the same challenge, instead of “what can I do to facilitate Deb’s recovery?”, my first thought would have been “How am I going to pay for this?”
The response that I received tells me that while all the guys in the orange T-shirts get it, only a few of the suits really understand the effect of long term unemployment.
First, you don’t know that it’s long term until its way too late. Lay offs have always been a part of the construction industry, and they always will be. The joke is, “Don’t kill the job, let it die by itself,” and the truth behind that joke is, that the better you are at what you do, the sooner you finish, and the sooner you finish, the sooner you find yourself unemployed. So you always know that a lay off is coming.
If the weather is good, you paint your house. You cut, split, and stack next winter’s cord of wood. You clean out the attic, the garage, and then the basement, then, all the closets. You take down the drapes, and then in heated discussion, decide with your wife, who is going to pay to clean them.
After 3 months, the house is spotless. You’re cutting the grass before it needs it, and a weed wouldn’t dare grow in the flower beds even though you didn’t buy mulch this year.
At 5 months, you hear your wife telling someone on the phone that “he runs out to the mailbox the minute after the post man comes by, and he makes stacks out of everybody’s mail.” And you realize that, yeah, you do. You have stopped answering the phone without first checking caller ID, it might seem like a little thing, but first you need to find your reading glasses.
And that 18 months of living expense monies that the experts tell you to keep liquid for emergencies was actually more like 4 months, because technically, the emergency started when Deb first got sick and missed 2 years of work. So, you are tapped and when the truck starts making a weird noise, you ignore it because you can’t afford to fix it.
The health and welfare sends you a letter with C.O.B.R.A. buy-in prices. It looks more like your mortgage. You can’t possibly come up with that much money, but your wife has already had cancer, so you have to. The question then becomes, what are you not going to pay?
Opponents of Destination Casinos will tell you that gaming will lead to a rise in foreclosure rates. Where I live, foreclosure rates would decline. Opponents will speak of the despair felt by a potential compulsive gambler, but the members of the building trades who have lived for the past two years as I have just described are not the potential unemployed, they are real men and women who need work, and need it now. The jobs that this plan would create mean much more than simply the ability to pay our bills on time. These jobs will allow us to plan our futures and to confidently make life altering decisions.
The Massachusetts House of Representatives yesterday passed a gaming bill sponsored by Speaker Robert DeLeo that would establish two full casinos and license 750 slot machines for existing racetracks in the state. The vote to pass the legislation was a veto-proof 120-37, significant because some suspect Deval Patrick would consider a veto of any bill that included slot machines.
Union carpenters in Massachusetts have been lobbying hard to pass gaming legislation because of the estimated 10,000 construction jobs that would be created. A few weeks ago, hundreds of carpenters were part of a group numbering over a thousand that participated in a lobby day, flooding the State House to visit their individual elected officials.
The attention now shifts to the Senate, where brand new legislation may be created and passed. The Senate is expected to hold public hears, which members would be encouraged to attend. Any bill passed by the Senate would then go with the House bill to a House-Senate conference committee where a compromise bill would be negotiated before being sent to the Governor.
During the lobby day events today, Union Carpenter Bill Frost of Carpenters Local 218 spoke to members, legislators and the press about his experience while working with health care coverage for he and his family and what it's meant to be without work for a long period of time.
Good morning, my name is Bill Frost, and I am a carpenter. For the last 35 years I have driven into Boston each morning to work on construction projects. I guess I should say only 34 years, because this year… not so much.
Now, no one here needs me to tell them what has happened to the economy or that Resort Casinos will create job opportunities for the building trades. You all know as well as I do how desperately those jobs are needed by those of us on the fringes of the economy. What I can explain though, is how those jobs will impact working families.
Four years ago, my wife of 26 years was diagnosed with breast cancer. As I sat in her doctor’s office and heard the diagnosis, my fist thought was, “We will go into Boston. We will find the best doctors, and we will fight.”
Because I am a participant in an excellent Health Insurance Plan through the New England Carpenters Health Benefits Fund, this is exactly what we were able to do.
After chemotherapy, after surgery, then radiation, and still more chemo, my wife is now cancer free. In this time frame, however, the economy has tanked and health benefits are almost non existent. And I’ve got to tell you, if I were to find myself today back in that doctor’s office, hearing that malignant diagnosis for the first time, I’m afraid that now my first thought would be, “How am I going to pay for this?”
The construction and service industry jobs though would be created by this bill mean much more than just the ability to pay our bills on time. These jobs allow the underemployed the opportunity to plan their futures and to confidently make life-altering decisions.
The working families of Massachusetts deserve the passage of this bill.
The New Hampshire Senate voted yesterday by a 14-10 margin to expand gaming to six locations, which would include existing race tracks and new casinos.
The bill will now head to the House, where it will face a stiff challenge.
In addition to the many construction and permanent jobs that would be created, expanded gaming is expected to have a huge financial benefit for the state. The licenses for slot machines could generate an initial $200 million. License fees for facilities that want to offer table games would generate an additional $10 million each. Other area businesses would also receive a direct benefit of additional visitors.
With many states facing widening budget gaps and demand for job creation, decision-makers are weighing expanded gaming in the form of casinos or slot machines. Though gaming has expanded significantly in recent decades—most notably at Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun in Connecticut—many states have kept gambling limited to state-run lotteries or scratch tickets.
But those limits are expected to come down soon and the result would be increased state revenue and badly needed construction and permanent jobs.
In New Hampshire, the Senate Finance Committee passed a bill that authorizes up to 17,000 slot machines at six locations, which includes three racetracks and three new casinos.
The bill will now head to the full Senate, where it is expected to have enough support to pass. It will then head to the House of Representatives, where it will face a stiff challenge to pass.
If passed, the licenses for two locations are expected to generate an initial $50 million, which would cover budget shortfall in the Department of Health and Human Services. If locations wanted to offer table games, they would pay an additional $10 million each.
Two more locations would pay $20 million each for slot licenses and $10 million each for table games. The final two locations would pay $10 million each for slots and $10 million each for table games.
An open letter to Union Carpenters in Massachusetts:
These are very difficult times in our Commonwealth. Many carpenters are facing unemployment conditions they have never seen in their careers. On top of that health care costs are rising and gas prices have us all constantly on edge. Far too many families have lost their homes or been forced to make difficult decisions when it comes to their home budgets.
But there is a way to turn the tide a bit. If we bring resort-style gaming to Massachusetts, thousands of good-paying jobs will come with it.
Every year Massachusetts residents cross the border to spend money at Connecticut casinos and slot parlors in Rhode Island and Maine. It happens more than eight-million times a year with spending approaching nearly $1 billion annually. Worse than lost revenue, in Connecticut alone, that industry supports over 19,000 jobs.
Legislation authorizing resort-style casinos in Massachusetts will create good-paying jobs offering health care for struggling middle-class and working poor residents, including thousands of construction jobs and thousands more permanent resort-style casino jobs that will pay an average of $45 thousand a year.
Is your family struggling or concerned? Do you think resort gaming in the Bay State could improve your life? Tell your local legislator to bring good jobs to the Bay State! Please click the link below and tell your local representative to authorize gaming in Massachusetts.
With your voice - and help - we can bring those jobs back home to where it belongs: in our Commonwealth!