UNITE HERE Local 54

Atlantic City casino union workers to picket for salary adjustments in front of Tropicana after contracts expire today

2022-06-01
Reading time 2:13 min

Atlantic City union casino workers will form a picket line on the Boardwalk in front of Tropicana Atlantic City Wednesday evening, in the light of the impossibility to reach an agreement with the casinos, Local 54 of Unite Here confirmed Tuesday. 

Contracts with the city’s nine casinos were set to expire midday Wednesday, but it was foreseen on Tuesday that no breakthrough was likely to happen in talks with two of the largest casino companies, which include Casino Entertainment, owner of Caesars Atlantic City, Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City and Tropicana; and MGM Resorts International, which owns Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa.

Union President Bob McDevitt stated that the group is “looking forward to our action Wednesday night. We have a long way to go before we get a contract. We’re not far enough down the road for me to give you any kind of prediction yet”, the Press of Atlantic City reported. 

The union’s members would have to vote on whether to authorize a strike before a walkout could occur. McDevitt said such a vote has not yet been scheduled. 

The union has been negotiating for over a month seeking pay raises in a new deal. The goal is to keep workers from falling behind in an economy where labor shortages are increasing salaries in other industries, yet inflation is eating away at consumers’ purchasing power. 

In late May, the union warned that “labor disputes” could occur if the nine gaming venues do not agree to new contracts by a May 31 deadline. “A labor dispute is possible with an employer if a new contract is not settled or extended by that date,” Local 54 of the Unite Here union said on a dedicated new website called actravelalert.org. The new site works as a service for convention planners and travelers who need to know whether labor disputes could affect their Atlantic City plans.

The emphasis on higher wages represent a switch for the union, which for over the decades has prioritized comprehensive health insurance and pensions over big pay raises. 

Back in 2004, the union went on strike for 34 days, and walked out against the former Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort in July 2016, which ended with the casino shutting down in October that same year. It has since reopened under different ownership as the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City. 

McDevitt said the casino industry is showing strength in the third year of the pandemic, aided by strong performances in the online gambling and sports betting industries. Last year, according to the state Division of Gaming Enforcement, the casinos won over $4.2 billion in combined casino, online and sports betting revenue. However, according to casino executives, the casinos only keep about 30% of that money, and the rest goes to third-party providers. 

They claim money from in-person gamblers on their premises is a better indicator of the health of the industry, having seen figures around $2.5 billion last year from in-person revenue, which is below the level of 2019, before the pandemic hit. 

Earlier this month, the union released a survey of 1,934 of its members showing that 61% struggled to pay rent or mortgage on time in the past year; 32% reported they lacked money for food; 37% lacked enough for utilities; and 27% for transportation. 

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