Tag Archives: sexual harassment

Why Would Casino Operators Behavior Surprise Us?

Stephen Wynn, chairman and chief executive of Wynn Resorts, with his wife, Andrea Hissom. Fallout from the disclosure of allegations of sexual misconduct against Mr. Wynn mounted on Friday. Credit Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call, via Getty Images

Lafayette          The #MeToo moment is not yet over.  The Wall Street Journal broke a story on the front page on the sexually abusive and harassing behavior of Las Vegas based, global casino mogul, Stephen Wynn, long a billionaire legend as well as a transactional donor to politicians and political parties, and currently a big hitter with the Republicans now that his buddy, and former casino operator, Donald Trump is president.

The Journal reporters pulled the rope tightly on this story.  Nobody came looking for them, but they interviewed 150 people with stories to tell.  None of the tales were as far on the spectrum as the de facto rapes that have been alleged by Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Bill Cosby and Russell Simmons, but Wynn nudges close to that line in what he demanded in the power imbalance of a billionaire to many of his masseuses and other rank-and-file employees and subcontractors.  What he clearly wanted, and was sometimes getting, was more than a back rub for his $1000 in case for the treatment.  His defense is to finger point at the long ranging lawsuit with his former wife, and claim it was all vengeful make believe.  Sorry, Stevie, one-hundred fifty voices calling you name makes this more than a courtroom financial wheeler dealer situation.

Additionally, the Journal points out that the Wynn situation is a first.  Obviously, it’s not a first when it comes to old, rich men sexually harassing and exploiting women under their thumbs, but it is the first time the head of a big company that is publicly traded in the stock exchange has been caught with his pants so far down and totally exposed.  The market dropped the shares of his company by 10%.  It is also first time one of these exploiters has been caught in a company that is publicly regulated according to the Journal, although that claim is harder to sort out.  Indeed, the gaming commission in the state of Massachusetts has said they will investigate and look at the requirements of their license for the $2.5 billion casino Wynn is currently building in the state.

Let’s agree that he’s gotten himself in a mess and whatever happens next is his just dessert, though we can predict his fall will be complete and total within days.   My first reaction was shocking to me:  I wasn’t surprised.  No matter how many millions and billions are spent creating the peculiar environments that make up casinos, they are inherently sleazy, and that’s part of their appeal.  To create a business which is based on the vast majority of customers losing money, the real appeal has to be somewhere else, and it likes in the culture that advertises that “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”

Furthermore, for all the hue and cry, if you take another casino operator out of the sleaze and sizzle that defines that enterprise where everyone is a mark ready to be fleeced, doesn’t that also explain the behavioral entitlement and objectification of women that also defines Donald Trump, as well as his operating ideology and political philosophy?

Apples don’t roll far from the tree or in this case the roulette wheels.


Taking the #MeToo Moment into the Workplace and Community

New Orleans   In all of the discussion of the #MeToo moment, the most moving story I have read was not the stories about Hollywood, media stars and Washington electeds, but the daily struggles on the assembly line waged by women trying to hold onto family-security wages at Ford plants. These weren’t the stories of wolf-whistles at construction sites or simple side-comments in the parking lot or at the time clock, though there were undoubtedly plenty of them. These were stories where women were forced to sleep for their jobs and more.  These were the usually silent screams of the working class and its women trying to fight their way to some safe space and pay equity. We heard them for a minute, and they forced a visit from the CEO of Ford to the plant and a public apology.

The Times-Up women from Hollywood were careful to say they would stand with women service workers, farm and hotel workers, but their strategy is lawsuits thus far, so the results may take a long time to be seen and felt, if ever. Even in the auto plant expose, the women’s union, the great UAW, wasn’t adequate protection. Union women activists and organizers called them out after the article ran in the New York Times. It was a cry of embarrassment. Where will it be heard?

One of the first big grievances we won with our fledgling local in our first contract representing the cafeteria workers subcontracted at Tulane University involved a spunky, young woman named Gail Kelly. Her aunt, Daisy, had been a sparkplug in the organizing drive and a member of the bargaining committee. Gail was written up and recommended for termination. The offense we grieved was over her failure, despite repeated warnings, to “smile on the line” while she served students who were her same age on the other side of the cafeteria counter. The real story didn’t take long to unravel. Too many Tulane athletes and male students saw Gail as fair game and made her the brunt of constant flirting, innuendo, and direct propositions. Her survival strategy was a street sharpened tongue and a stern face that didn’t offer a smile that could be misinterpreted as a solicitation for more harassment across the counter. We won that grievance at the general manager’s level. Winning changed Gail, too. She later became a steward at the work site and then an organizer for Local 100 and later ran drives for SEIU local unions organizing thousands of home care workers in California until ill health and personal tragedy broke her soaring spirit.

This item is on the agenda for our yearly meeting. Some organizers will be uncomfortable seeing it find its place in the small group discussion, but their unease is the wrong reaction. My hope is that this conversation will focus on how we make our community and union meetings open forums for women to talk about their struggles with harassment and abuse. Everyone has a story, but working, low-and-moderate income women, like the Ford women, need real spaces for the conversation, and union halls and community organizations need to step up and provide it, and then stand up and take action in solidarity with them.

Call it simple justice or the right thing to do, but I’ll call it the follo