ATLANTIC CITY, NJ (AP) — Unable to secure new contracts with Atlantic City’s casinos, the city’s main casino workers’ union will begin picketing one of them on Wednesday.
Local 54 of the Unite Here union announced on Tuesday that its members would form a picket line on the promenade in front of the Tropicana casino on Wednesday evening.
Contracts with Atlantic City’s nine casinos were set to expire at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, and by noon Tuesday it was clear that no breakthrough was likely in talks with two of the biggest casino companies: Caesars Entertainment, which owns Caesars, Harrah’s and Tropicana, and MGM Resorts International, which owns the city’s premier property, the Borgata.
“We look forward to our action on Wednesday night,” union president Bob McDevitt said. “We have a long way to go before getting a contract. We are not yet advanced enough for me to give you any prediction.
MGM declined to comment; Caesars representatives did not respond to a message seeking comment on Tuesday.
Union members should vote on whether to authorize a strike before a walkout can occur. McDevitt said such a vote was not yet scheduled.
The union went on strike in 2004 for 34 days and pulled out against the former Trump Taj Mahal casino in July 2016, which ended with the casino closing in October of that year. It has since reopened under a different owner as Hard Rock.
The union has been negotiating for more than a month, seeking what it called “significant” pay increases in a new deal, although it has not publicly specified the percentage increase it is seeking.
The goal is to keep workers from falling behind in an economy where labor shortages are raising wages in other industries, but inflation is eating away at consumers’ purchasing power.
The focus on higher wages represents a shift for the union, which over the decades has prioritized comprehensive health insurance and pensions over big pay rises.
McDevitt said the casino industry is showing strength in the third year of the pandemic, helped by strong performances in the internet gambling and sports betting industries. Last year, according to the state’s Division of Gaming Enforcement, casinos earned more than $4.2 billion in combined casino, online, and sports betting revenue.
But casino executives have long said that sports and online betting revenue streams aren’t what they seem, as casinos only keep around 30% of that money, with the rest going to third-party vendors. .
They argue that the money earned by players in person on their premises is a more accurate indication of the health of the industry. Last year’s in-person revenue was $2.5 billion, which is below the level in 2019, before the pandemic hit.
Earlier this month the union released a survey of 1,934 of its members which showed that 61% said they had struggled to pay their rent or mortgage on time in the past year; 32% said they lacked money for food, 37% lacked money for utilities and 27% for transportation.
On its Facebook page, the union posted testimonials from workers who say they are working harder but falling behind. Teresa Lopez, who works at Caesars, said: “We’re cleaning more checkouts every shift with fewer cleaners. I work six days a week with compulsory overtime.
“That’s enough,” she said. “We deserve better. Casinos make their money; now it’s our turn.
Follow Wayne Parry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/WayneParryAC