The tenuous landscape that is the casino-studded shoreline of Atlantic City took another hit earlier this month when members of the UNITE HERE Local 54 union approved a July 1 strike.
However, this morning the union was able to reach a “tentative agreement” with Bally’s, Caesers and Harrah’s, and a deal with the Tropicana later in the day. That leaves the Trump Taj Mahal as the only affected casino that has not yet reached a compromise with the union.
The background: Local 54’s original announcement
Should the Taj Mahal fail to reach an agreement, it will be the union’s first works stoppage since 2004.
A video posted to Local Local 54’s Facebook page on June 22 shows the initial announcement of the pending strike:
“(Workers) from Tropicana, Caesers, Harrah’s and Bally’s voted to authorize a strike. Ninety-six percent of those workers voted to authorize a strike … on July 1st if they don’t have a fair contract.,” a spokesperson said in the video.
Shortly after the speech, the video revealed a statistic that said more than 6,000 workers could walk off the job the first day of July. That number, however, will decrease significantly if the tentative agreements go through.
The contract: Why Local 54 want voted for a strike
The Associated Press reported that workers are fighting to gain back various benefits they had gone without for the past few years:
- Health benefits
- Vacation and other time off
- Salary increases
The union was quoted as saying “its members have seen their salaries increase by only 80 cents per hour since 2004.”
A radio advertisement posted on Local 54’s website elaborates on the reasons behind the potential strike.
“Atlantic City casino workers sacrificed a lot when times were tight for our industry and our community,” a woman’s voice says. “Now, things are getting better — for the casinos … Nobody wants a strike, but we have to stand up for our families.”
Local 54 President: “Stalinist state…”
According to a June 28 article from Forbes contributor and Florida-based lawyer Darren Heitner, Trump Taj Mahal may be “ground zero” for the strike since workers there have no health-care or pension benefits.
Bob McDevitt, president of Local 54, was quoted as saying his members were fed up with missing out on raises for 10 years and that “we’re not in a Stalinist state where you can force workers to work for whatever you say.”
Heitner: Last-minute deal “wouldn’t be surprising”
Heitner, who has written about collective bargaining agreements in the NFL, NBA and NHL, spoke with N.J. Gambling Sites yesterday. When asked if he believed the strike would materialize, Heitner said the threat was real but that he expected the compromise that transpired today.
“It wouldn’t be shocking if, within the next 48 hours, we do see some settlement on terms. The general assumption is that we won’t see a deal,” he said before today’s events. “But, that said, this is typical of labor disputes. The parties won’t figure out a compromise until the very last minute when there’s a realization that the strike will occur and time is of the essence.”
Statistics show strong first quarter for casinos
A first-quarter statistical summary provided by the New Jersey Department of Gaming Enforcement revealed that seven of the city’s eight casinos saw increases in gross operating profit compared to the same quarter in 2015.
In the wake of these statistics, New Jersey Casino Control Commission Chairman Matt Levinson told the Associated Press he felt the numbers showed that “Atlantic City’s casino industry is alive and quite well.” He went on to say the first-quarter numbers showed “an indication that the market is stabilizing after several years of turmoil.”
Heitner said in his Forbes article he believes these statistics played a part in the union’s decision to move forward with the strike.
Gross operating profits for the city’s five casinos went up significantly in 2015 as well, with Golden Nugget posting a more than 320-percent increase and Caesers posting a 143.7-percent increase.
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