Sands Bethlehem Casino Security Guards Defeat Adelson In Union Fight

Written By Jessica Welman on February 27, 2017 - Last Updated on October 17, 2022
Sands PA casino unionizes

[toc]In almost three decades of owning and operating casinos, billionaire and Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson has never had unionized employees before.

In fact, he fights tooth and nail to squash any attempts to organize on his properties.

His winning streak is over now, though. The security guards of Sands Bethlehem in Pennsylvania have successfully unionized.

146-member union will see pay increases, seniority structure

The security guards organized under the International Union, Security, Police and Fire Professionals of America.

The current security guards working at Sands Bethlehem voted by a margin of 70-6 to unionize.

Some of the changes which will come with unionization include a seniority-based employee organization structure, an eight percent pay increase, and more influence in workplace rules and practices.

It took years for the organization to become official. The security guards began attempting to unionize in 2011, but Sands repeatedly appealed to the National Labor Relations Board.

The appeals process took years, but eventually the board ordered the Sands to allow collective bargaining to begin in 2015.

Former guard at PA casino led the charge to organize

The man behind the union efforts is George Bonser. He worked as Sands Bethlehem security guard before retiring recently.

“The first contract is always the hardest, but we’re pretty happy with what we got. I knew it would take awhile, but I never thought it would take this long,” Bonser told the Allentown Morning Call.

The effort took several years and some switches to a more powerful labor union with capital to possibly fight a legal battle with Adelson, but now Bonser and company have succeeded in their longtime goal.

Adelson has long history of union squashing

The tale of the successful security guards is surprising given Adelson’s fervent anti-union position. Not only does he not encourage unions on his properties, he actually goes out of his way to strike them down.

Adelson got into a lengthy battle with the Las Vegas Culinary Union when its members protested and handed out flyers in front of The Venetian after Adelson refused to sign a union contract.

Adelson appealed the decision all the way to the Supreme Court to remove the protesters from the area of the Las Vegas Strip in front of his casino. He was summarily dismissed.

The upside of Adelson’s strong anti-union stance is he attracts employees with relatively high, competitive wages and appealing benefits. This is why the pay increase for the Sands Bethlehem security guards is relatively minimal.

It also has Sands executives not overly concerned this is the beginning of more unions forcing their way into the Sands empire.

Adelson supports Trump, whose platform includes right-to-work laws

Adelson is also a strong supporter of President Donald Trump, who has made his right-to-work stance part of his platform. Adelson donated upwards of $30 million to the President’s campaign last year.

Trump tried to nominate former fast food executive Andrew Puzder as secretary of labor.

Puzder was a critic of minimum wage increases, is believed to be anti-union, and was criticized for the numerous instances of workplace discrimination filed when he worked for the company that owns the  Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. chains.

Puzder voluntarily withdrew from the confirmation process in wake of the criticism. Trump named Alexander Acosta as a replacement nominee.

The new nominee’s resume includes a nine-month stint on the National Labor Relations Board. Many unions critical of Puzder’s nomination have endorsed Acosta.

Image by iheartpandasCC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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Jessica Welman

Jessica Welman has been a key voice in the legal betting industry since the repeal of PASPA in 2018. She contributed to and formerly managed several Catena Play-branded sites including PlayPennsylvania, PlayTenn and PlayIndiana. A longtime poker media presence, Jess has worked as a tournament reporter for the World Poker Tour, co-hosted a podcast for Poker Road, and served as the managing editor for

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