Local 54 of Unite Here union

Hard Rock Atlantic City reaches settlement with casino workers; fourth of July weekend strike averted

Jim Allen, Chairman of Hard Rock International.
Reading time 2:28 min

The last threat of a strike during the holiday weekend in Atlantic City has now been removed after Hard Rock casino reached an agreement with the city’s main casino workers’ union Saturday. Local 54 of the Unite Here union announced a tentative deal with the property on Sunday two days after having reached a settlement with the Borgata, Caesars, Harrah’s and the Tropicana. The union stated it expects Resorts and Golden Nugget to get on board in the coming days.

Bally’s and the Ocean Casino Resort have signed so-called me-too agreements committing to adopting the terms of contracts the union reaches with the larger casinos. The deals now reached still need to be ratified by the full union membership. 

Jim Allen, Chairman of Hard Rock International, expressed: “We are extremely pleased that we were once again able to reach a successful settlement with Unite Here Local 54 to increase wages and benefits for our deserving team members. We look forward to further expanding this excellent relationship at both the national and local levels as we expand our iconic brand," according to Associated Press

Joe Lupo, president of Hard Rock Atlantic City, said the deal allows the casino to concentrate on its performance during the peak tourist season: “We look forward to a vibrant holiday weekend and a tremendous summer season”, he stated. 

The deals avoid what would have been a costly and disruptive strike during the Fourth of July weekend, one of the busiest moments of the year for casinos, and provides labor peace in the crucial road to full recovery during the third summer of the coronavirus pandemic.

Venues have now also dodged what would have been the city’s first casino strike since 2016, when the union rejected demands by billionaire Carl Icahn that the Trump Taj Mahal casino operate without healthcare and pension benefits that were terminated by a bankruptcy court. 

The Local 54 of the Unite Here union, which represents 6,000 workers, saw its previous contract expire on June 1, without any new agreements in sight. After seeking salary adjustments with all of the casinos to meet the needs of workers in times of labor shortages and inflation, the union settled first with Borgata Thursday evening. 

In past contracts, the union focused on preserving health care and pension benefits, but this time it sought pay raises for workers to help them keep up with spiraling prices for gasoline, food, rent and other living expenses, as the union surveyed almost 2,000 Atlantic City casino workers in March and April and found that 61% of respondents reported having struggled to pay their rent or mortgage in the past year, while others said they had trouble affording food, transportation and other utilities.

Including internet gambling and sports betting revenue, the casinos and their online partners have won $1.8 billion over the first five months of this year. That is up more than 49% from the same period in 2019, before the coronavirus hit. But the casinos claim those figures are misleading because third-party partners keep about 70% of internet and sports betting revenue, leaving little for the brick-and-mortar casinos.

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