Frustrated by slow progress toward a first collective bargaining contract, Teamsters Local 929 held a rally, complete with Teamster-driven trucks and a giant inflatable rat at the SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia Friday, just as the casino was readying itself for its weekend business.

"SugarHouse Casino has the lowest-paid workers in the industry," said Local 929 president Rocky Bryan Jr. said. Local 929 represents about 30 maintenance and building engineers — plumbers, carpenters and electricians — who voted around Christmas to affiliate with Local 929. Since then, he said, there has been little progress toward negotiating a first contract, with talks being scheduled about once a month. The next one is set for Tuesday. Typically, he said, it takes about three or four months to negotiate a first contract, with meetings two or three times a week.

Bryan said he thinks SugarHouse wants to delay bargaining to leave room for a decertification campaign to get rid of the union. "This is the only union" at SugarHouse, Bryan said. He thinks SugarHouse is worried about the rest of the facility joining unions.

"We've met the Teamsters' representatives numerous times, and have made several proposals with competitive-wage increases and continued great benefits," SugarHouse general manager Wendy Hamilton said in a statement. "We've been voted a Top Workplace for six consecutive years by our Team Members, and we're very proud of our culture, our team, and the great work that they do."

Bryan said the workers he represents now earn about $13 to $14 an hour, but similar Teamster-represented workers under contract typically earn $18 to $22 an hour plus benefits.