NEW JERSEY’S ATLANTIC CITY (AP) Casino employees in Atlantic City braced themselves for the prospect that their leaders’ talks with management would fall down and that the union would walk out on strike on Friday morning.
In an effort to achieve new labor agreements and prevent a walkout over one of the busiest weekends of the year for casinos, Local 54 of the Unite Here union was scheduled to engage with Hard Rock on Tuesday. Talks with the owners of three or four additional casinos were scheduled for Wednesday.
On Friday, the union has given the go-ahead to strike against the Borgata and the three Caesars Entertainment casinos (Caesars, Harrah’s, and Tropicana). It also gave Hard Rock till Sunday to end its strike.
Bally’s and the Ocean Casino Resort, two additional casinos, have negotiated “me-too” deals whereby they promise to follow the conditions of the contracts reached by the larger establishments in town, preventing a strike.
In order to create picket signs that striking employees will use outside casinos that are the target of a labor action, union workers at the union’s headquarters started stapling “On Strike” cardboard placards onto wooden sticks on Tuesday morning.
Additionally, employees started applying for reduced strike pay from a fund the union keeps for walkouts. Ruth Ann Joyce, a bartender at the Harrah’s and Hard Rock casinos, was one of them.
Like many other employees, she claimed that while the casinos attempt to recover from the coronavirus pandemic and find their footing against escalating inflation and a critical manpower crisis, they are slipping behind.
“Most of the casinos are making money, and we want to be a part of that,” she said while stapling sign after sign, wearing a hoodie commemorating the union’s last strike in 2016 against the Trump Taj Mahal.
The casino had to close as a result of the strike for health care and pension entitlements. In 2018, it reopened as the Hard Rock under new management.
Joyce warned that if the union went on strike this weekend, the casinos would struggle to provide even the most basic services.
“I don’t believe in this day and age there are any workers out there to bring in,” she said. “We need to pay well to retain the workers we already have.”
The union has stated that it is requesting a “substantial” compensation rise as part of its upcoming contract, although it has not made this demand public.
According to union leaders, they prioritized keeping health coverage over salary increases in earlier contracts. However, they assert that in the current environment, workers need better income to keep up with the rising cost of petrol, food, rent, and other costs.
The Borgata, the best-performing business in the city, is owned by MGM Resorts International, with whom the union mostly bargains.
A strike against some or all of the casinos that have not yet signed deals with the union should become more clear in the coming days.
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