Atlantic City’s main casino workers union will vote Wednesday on whether to authorize a strike against the city’s casinos, with whom they have yet to reach new contract agreements. Local 54 of the Unite Here union stated its members will decide whether union leadership can call a strike against any or all the nine casinos, since the contracts with them expired nearly two weeks ago, and talks have yet to produce a new agreement.
Even though there is no date set for a potential walkout, the July 4 holiday weekend is believed to be the obvious choice, as it is crucial to the casinos’ business plans as one of the busiest times of the year.
Union president Bob McDevitt said in an official statement: “We’ve been saying for some time now that casino workers need a real raise. We’re two weeks past our contract expiration, and we’ll continue to try to get there with the companies, but we’re taking a vote this week to put in the hands of the negotiating committee the power to call a strike, if necessary."
Union president Bob McDevitt
A “yes” vote would not result in an immediate strike: it would simply give the union’s negotiating committee the power to call a strike if and when they see fit. But it would be likely to increase pressure on the casinos as they negotiate with the union, which says it is seeking “significant wage increases in the next contract to help workers deal with financial setbacks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and rapidly rising prices.
The labor dispute came as some casinos and their online partners are collectively making more money now than before the pandemic hit. However, venues argue that those statistics are “misleading” as they get to keep only 30% of online and sports betting money, with the rest going to their third-party partners. They also claim that in-person revenue won from gamblers is the crucial metric, and not all properties have surpassed their pre-COVID levels.
The union went on strike in 2004 for 34 days, and walked out against the former Trump Taj Mahal casino in July 2016, which ended with the casino shutting down in October of that year. It has since reopened under different ownership as the Hard Rock.
So far, the union has secured agreements with the Ocean Casino Resort and Bally's to honor the terms of contracts eventually reached with some of the larger casino companies in town, but no contracts have yet been agreed upon.
The union warned about potential “labor disputes” last month, and opened a new website called actravelalert.org. The site works as a service for convention planners and travelers who need to know whether labor disputes could affect their Atlantic City plans.