Casino workers stage protest, claim BP 'lied and discriminated'

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - By Trang Pham-Bui – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) – You could hear the anger in their voices as they marched and chanted: "BP lied.  We got denied!"

"It's being lied to and being told we haven't lost our wages when we have lost wages," said Krista Mastroiani, a casino dealer.

"All we're hearing is we're denied, casinos all the way across, denied. I'm pissed," said another dealer, Mike Mendoza.

"Honk if you support us! Come on now. This affects everybody," one of the protestors shouted to passing cars.

More than 50 workers from casinos across South Mississippi and Louisiana staged a rally Monday near the Biloxi Lighthouse.  For three hours, they marched along Highway 90, holding signs that read: "BP Unfair and Discriminates." "No more lies." "Everyone got paid, why not casino workers?"

"We're being denied at once. There's no way they went through every claim because we lost money," said Mendoza. "I started two years ago making $52,000 a year, then $50,000. Now I'm scheduled to make $44,000 and they're not saying we lost anything."

The casino workers said they're the ones on the front lines of the tourism industry, yet they say they haven't been treated fairly in the claims process.

"You got those out there in fast food restaurants that's getting checks you know. I applied almost a month ago and I'm still under review and we need help. We're suffering," said Patreace Tucker, a casino housekeeper.

Their rally coincided with a visit by BP Claims Administrator Kenneth Feinberg.  He was in South Mississippi Monday, meeting with hotel and casino industry leaders. The casino workers want Feinberg to know that the casinos may have made money this year, but not the workers.

"We don't make minimum wage. Ninety percent of our income is based on tips, and they don't understand that," said Mastroianni.

"I want him to understand that we work just like the outside restaurants do, that's not in the casino business, and the revenue in the casino has nothing to do with us at all," said Amy Sullivan, a casino dealer and co-organizer of the rally.

"We feel like BP and Mr. Feinberg and all their messages of we're going to make it right, they haven't," said another rally organizer Connie Penuel.

One person held a sign that read: "Pay emergency claims now or face a class action lawsuit later."  One of the organizers of the protest said that talking to an attorney could be their next step, if there is no resolution in this ongoing debate.

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