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Atlantic City Casino Union Mulling Strike After Labor Agreements Expire

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Posted on: June 13, 2022, 10:50h. 

Last updated on: June 13, 2022, 11:08h.

The Atlantic City casino union that represents some 10,000 workers employed by the nine resorts is threatening a strike.

Atlantic City casino union Unite Here Local 54
Atlantic City casino workers hold signs calling on the nine resorts to agree to increase their wages. The union is threatening to strike unless the casinos agree to new contract terms in the near future. (Image: Unite Here Local 54)

Unite Here Local 54 says its labor agreements with the nine casinos expired at the end of May. While negotiations are continuing with casino representatives, union brass says a strike could be imminent.

The union announced yesterday evening that a strike authorization vote will be held this Wednesday, June 15. If more members vote in favor of a strike, Unite Here Local 54 will be cleared to instruct its members to walk off the job at any point until new contract terms are reached.

The casino union represents workers in a variety of resort jobs, including housekeepers, laundry workers, cocktail servers, chefs, line cooks, bartenders, doormen, and other service jobs in South Jersey’s casino and hospitality industries.

Pay Increases Demanded

Unite Here Local 54 focused during previous contract negotiations on job security and benefits. But this time around, the union says a “significant” increase in take-home pay is the focus, as inflation continues to hurt union workers.

We’ve been saying for some time now that casino workers need a real raise,” said Bob McDevitt, president of Unite Here’s Local 54 chapter. “We’re two weeks past our contract expiration, and we’ll continue to try and 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.”

A strike would be most devastating to the nine casinos, as their busy summer season arrives. No weekend is typically busier in Atlantic City than the July 4 holiday, and that could be a prime time for the union to strike, should the casinos not agree to increase pay for their workers.

Though New Jersey’s gaming industry continues to grow, much of the increased gross gaming revenue (GGR) is being realized online. And a considerable portion of the iGaming money, the casinos say, is shared with their third-party operators like DraftKings and FanDuel.

The casinos claim to still be struggling from the pandemic. But the cold, hard numbers reveal that their brick-and-mortar gross gaming revenue (GGR) has bettered 2019 levels. Through four months of 2022, the nine casinos have won $847.9 million on their physical gaming floors. The casinos during the same four months in 2019 generated GGR of $804.7 million.

Strike Previously Led to Taj Closure

The Unite Here Local 54 casino union last went on strike in July of 2016, when workers at Trump Taj Mahal picketed for the resumption of their health care and pension benefits. Such perks were temporarily halted by the Boardwalk casino after it filed for bankruptcy under its previous ownership, Trump Entertainment Resorts.

Billionaire Carl Icahn, who acquired the casino and its parent company out of bankruptcy, refused to restore health care and retirement contributions. He claimed at the time that he was losing more than $10 million a month keeping the casino open. He also said he needed more time to turn around the property’s business operations before such benefits warranted reimplementing.

Icahn said the union strike left him no other choice but to fully shutter the Taj, once dubbed the “Eighth Wonder of the World” by future President Donald Trump. Icahn sold the property to Hard Rock International the following year for just $50 million. Hard Rock invested more than half of a billion dollars to reimagine the Indian-themed casino into Hard Rock Atlantic City.

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