Iowa Unions Protesting At Rhythm City

In Davenport, Iowa, members of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 are protesting at the construction site of the $110 million land-based Rhythm City Casino, claiming they are being blocked from working on the project. Mayor Bill Gluba said he told developer Dan Kehl to use local labor.

Local union members are being kept out of working on the construction of the 0 million land-based Rhythm City Casino and Hotel in Davenport, said Ryan Drew, a representative of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150. The local of the union represents 23,000 members in the Midwest including 800 in the Quad-Cities, Drew said. “Local workers should be doing this. Isle of Capri in Bettendorf, Jumer’s Casino in Rock Island, they made the commitment on the front end to use local labor. Rhythm City chose not to. They rely on the general public to support their facilities. Our message is to try and impress upon the public to support the casinos that do support the community by hiring locals.”

Drew said union members are not picketing but have been protesting outside the Rhythm City Casino riverboat in downtown Davenport. They are posting banners, handing out flyers and generally providing information to the public, Drew said.

Rhythm City Casino General Manager Mo Hyder commented, “We are surprised and disappointed to see the negative banners and flyers being circulated by labor groups. Their message is both incorrect and confusing.” Hyder added, “We have a track record of building world-class facilities using local talent.” The casino has a “great team” building the new facility, Hyder said, which includes several large contractors based in the Quad-Cities that employ local union labor.

Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba said last fall he emphasized to casino developer Dan Kehl, chief executive officer and president of Kehl Development, that he should use local labor to build the casino. “I am totally in sympathy and solidarity with the members of various building trades here. I don’t dislike Dan Kehl. But, you’re talking union members and their families in the Quad-Cities. I told Dan, ‘Why alienate such a large group of people? Try to work with them.’ I think it’s most unfortunate.” Gluba added union members might encourage their friends and families “to boycott Rhythm City and go to Jumer’s or Isle of Capri. It will hurt the percentage of gross gaming receipts. And, that will cut into our share of revenues.”

Rory Washburn, executive director of the Tri-City Building and Construction Trades Council, said there have been some good local contractors that have gotten some work on the project, but said the Local 150 operators have taken exception.

“Almost the entire scope of work has been outsourced and is not being done in the community,” Mr. Washburn said.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held at the casino-hotel site on June 4. It’s expected to be completed by Memorial Day 2016, Kehl said. The project includes a gaming floor with slot machines, table games and a poker room, 106-room hotel and 16,000 square foot convention center with 1,500 seats.