Atlantic City casino workers poised to strike before July 4 weekend

Staff at Atlantic City casinos are striking for better wager and conditions
Staff at Atlantic City casinos are striking for better wager and conditions
Casinos are making record profits and workers believe they should get a bigger slice of the pie.

The Unite Here Local 54 casino workers’ union in Atlantic City has given its members the authority to strike at any moment after July 1, 2022, in the eventuality that a new collective agreement with the nine region casinos is not negotiated.

There is only one week left before the busiest weekend of the year in Atlantic City. After having their summer travel plans disrupted by the COVID-19 epidemic in both of the previous two years, the nine casinos are anticipating that the July 4 Independence Day weekend will be especially busy.

READ: Hundreds of Atlantic City casino workers protest, demand wage increase

It is possible that the labor union will gain an advantage in the present wage negotiations as a result of the union’s threat to commence a strike at any point starting the next Friday at 12:01am (EDT). In these discussions, union leaders are asking for a larger take-home wage for their members.

“Gas is up. Groceries are up. Everything, you name it,” Rodney Mills, a housekeeper at the Tropicana who is authorized to speak publicly on the union’s behalf, told NPR this week. 

“It costs you way more than it used to, and the wages that we are currently making are not sustainable.”

Mills has been working with Tropicana for the past three decades in total. At the moment, he earns US$16.25 per hour, which results in a yearly salary of almost $33,800 before taxes.

Negotiation expiration date a deliberate move by union

It was a calculated action on the part of Unite Here Local 54 to allow the contract negotiations it had in place with the Atlantic City casinos to expire only one month before the Fourth of July celebration. On June 1, the labor deals were considered to have formally expired, leaving the two parties only one month before the Fourth of July weekend to come to an agreement on new conditions.

“The union picked that date to ratify their contract for that very reason,” explained Jane Bokunewicz, director of Stockton University’s Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism (LIGHT).

“It gives them leverage that it’s right before the holiday weekend.”

According to Bokunewicz, it is difficult to calculate the number of potential tourists who were planning to spend a holiday weekend in New Jersey’s gambling beach resort but may now choose to go somewhere else because of the labor problems.

READ: Caesars Atlantic City announces $200m casino renovation plan

A website titled “Atlantic City Travel Alert” was created in the month of May, with the purpose of informing tourists that there is a possibility that their summer holiday preparations could be disrupted by a strike. This page provides a list of nearby non-gaming hotels that are still covered by their respective unions.

“You don’t know how many people will stay away, how well the management will be able to run the properties and keep them operating,” Bokunewicz continued.

“It’s hard to put a number or percentage on it, but it will definitely have an impact.”

A strike would be detrimental to not just the casinos in Atlantic City but also the people who work for such casinos, regardless of the fact that the casino union in Atlantic City could have the upper hand in negotiations. As a consequence of the fact that many workers in the gaming sector rely significantly on tips, a strike over the biggest weekend of the summertime would have severe implications for the workers’ ability to make ends meet.

“A lot of employees make most of their money — hospitality employees, especially — during the busy summer season because the tips are higher. There’s more people and they can really make a lot of money on a Fourth of July weekend,” Bokunewicz said.

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