LEDYARD, Conn. — As benefits of tribal membership go, few compare with the six-figure stipends once enjoyed by the Mashantucket Pequots, who own and operate the giant Foxwoods Resort Casino.
Since those payments dried up, more have started taking advantage of another privilege: casino jobs.
The Pequots, a tribe of roughly 900 people in southeastern Connecticut, receive special consideration for employment and promotions under the law. Tribal members who take entry-level jobs at the casino also have been eligible for supplemental pay raising their minimum wage to about $24 an hour.
A trickle of recent tribal hires has included 15 who took jobs as table-game dealers. While tribal employees represent a tiny fraction of the 8,000-strong workforce at Foxwoods, their status has emerged as a contentious labor issue, with one union pushing in contract talks to protect veteran workers’ seniority rights.
The Pequots halted generous revenue-sharing payments to adult members earlier this year as they struggle through a financial crisis brought on largely by a slump in the casino business. The tribe still helps with college tuition payments and offered financial and employment counseling to help members through the new austerity, but jobs are one of the biggest remaining benefits of membership.
A Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation spokesman declined to comment on how many members are working at Foxwoods.