With a strike looming, contract negotiation meetings between UNITE HERE Local 54, which represents approximately 9,600 hospitality workers in the Atlantic City area, and representatives of Tropicana Atlantic City, were scheduled for yesterday, according to the Press of Atlantic City.
According to a union spokesman, this coming week there will be more meetings where Trump Taj Mahal representatives as well as representatives of Caesars Entertainment’s three Atlantic City resorts, will meet.
On June 16, 96% of the workers from Atlantic City’s Tropicana, Bally’s, Harrah’s, and Caesars voted to authorize a strike if new labor contracts aren’t in hand by July 1. Workers want the part of its package the union gave up during contract talks in 2011 when the casinos were struggling, to be restored. That includes upwards of a week of paid vacation. In addition, workers want their wages to be increased by $3, to be implemented over five years in increments of .60 cents, as well as contributions by employers to the union’s health fund in order to maintain benefits at their current levels.
Atlantic City casinos gross more during the months of July and August than any other time of the year, with higher room rates and rooms being fully booked. The threatened walk-off could potentially affect five of the city’s remaining eight casinos in time for the July 4 holiday weekend, which is fast approaching, so the importance of the outcome of today’s negotiations can’t be overstated. The city’s other three casinos, Golden Nugget, Borgata, and Resorts won’t be affected due to an indefinite extension that the union has given them.
At the time of the vote, UNITE HERE Local 54 President Bob McDevitt noted that in 2004, a 34-day strike by nearly 10,000 hospitality workers at seven of the resort town’s casinos resulted in a $60 million loss in revenue for the casinos. A strike now would affect the approximately 6,000 Local 54 members who work at Harrah’s, the Tropicana, Bally’s Atlantic City, Caesars Atlantic City, and the Trump Taj Mahal, which are subject to the impending July 1 deadline.
The possible strike comes at a time when the state is trying to deal with a slew of issues, the most daunting of which is the $100 million budget shortfall and the ongoing battle between it Atlantic City over a possible takeover. Meanwhile, older casinos in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and New York already draw gamblers away from the Garden State, and if the referendum to allow two new casinos in North Jersey is successful in November, Atlantic City’s exclusivity rights, which it has enjoyed since casinos were legalized there in 1976, are over.