by Kyle Swenson
The future of Cleveland’s gambling industry got a little murky recently when Dan Gilbert’s Rock Gaming announced its plan to temporarily jam the brakes on construction of the future casino in the Higbee Building. The problem? Uncertainty from Governor John Kasich about what kind of taxes the state might be able to hammer the nascent gaming biz with.
As the sound-bite tug of war rages on, we wanted to know how Joe Hardhat — the guy pouring concrete or tossing up drywall — is affected by the shutdown. Turns out, not so well.
“It’s mind-boggling to us that a governor in a state that’s already hurting for work would multiply that by stopping a big development,” says Terry Joyce, secretary-treasurer of the Building Laborers’ Union Local No. 310. “For someone who wants to be about jobs and move the state forward, I don’t know how you would stop a multi-billion-dollar venture like a casino.”
Joyce also serves as president of the Cleveland Building Trades Council, so he has a finger on the pulse of the local construction community. When Higbee construction was at its height over winter, he says, two shifts were working the site — around 200 laborers and tradesmen in all.
“There were still in the neighborhood of 100 people that were there now, with hundreds and hundreds more to come in the future,” Joyce says. “All of that now will be pushed way down the line.”
Joyce estimates most of those guys are cooling on the bench these days. Local 310 alone has about 30 guys out of work. Some might have shifted over to other projects, but there’s not too much work out there — hasn’t been for years.
From Joyce’s view, the developer’s hands were tied here, and he wishes Kasich — no fan of organized labor — would have at least found a way to negotiate while construction continued.
“All we want to do is build this thing,” he says.