The union that represents workers at an East Bay Indian casino is reaching out to residents of Windsor in an attempt to win a protracted labor dispute.
The reason for appealing to Windsor -- about 60 miles and a couple of counties away -- may not be obvious. But the tribe that owns the San Pablo Casino has plans to build a large, controversial housing project for its members on land on Windsor's periphery.
The union includes about 220 employees at the casino owned by the Santa Rosa-based Lytton Band of Pomo Indians, or roughly half the workforce.
They have been working without a contract for three years, unable to reach an agreement on wages, health coverage and other issues with the San Pablo Lytton casino.
The union, Oakland-based United Here Local 2850, filed charges more than a year ago with the National Labor Relations Board alleging that the casino owners are refusing to meet and bargain, and are denying union representatives access to the premises.
On Thursday, the union's case was bolstered when the NLRB found cause for the complaint to proceed and ordered a hearing for Oct. 29 with an administrative law judge.
In the meantime, the union is trying another tactic to pressure the 270-member tribe: Sending mailers to Windsor residents alleging some casino workers were fired unjustly.
A number of tribal members live in Sonoma County, said Jessica Medina, a union organizer, and the tribe maintains an office near the airport north of Santa Rosa.
She said their neighbors should know "the tribe has forgotten about the people who made them all this money."
But Larry Stidham, general counsel for the tribe, said "we think we are providing fair and reasonable benefits and wages," based on a survey of other casinos.
The Lytton tribe for the past 10 years has steadily acquired land in west Windsor and has applied to have 120 acres put into federal trust to develop a housing and cultural center.
The plans have frustrated Windsor and Sonoma County officials who say the 147 homes in the plan create much higher density than would be allowed on the rural property if the tribe were subject to local land use and zoning controls.
The tribe continues to add to its holdings and has bought an additional 140 acres.
The numerous purchases have helped fuel suspicions that the tribe may be pursuing a second casino. But tribal spokesmen have steadfastly denied any such intent. And legal experts say the federal law essentially prevents the tribe from building a casino in Windsor.
How much impact the union's campaign in Windsor will have is uncertain.
"Windsor doesn't have a lot of authority over what happens at the cardroom, or how they develop the land near us," said Mayor Debora Fudge. "I can certainly understand everybody trying to get as much input to the process as they can in the hopes it would make a difference."
Registered voters in Windsor recently began receiving colorful postcards from the union with pictures of former San Pablo casino workers with their children.
The workers pictured claim that they were dismissed unfairly. In one instance, one woman said she was fired from her casino job after nine years because management wanted her to return from maternity leave faster.