Hundreds of union officials and casino workers were picketing out front of the Tropicana Casino in Atlantic City last week. The contract between casinos and Local 54 of the Unite Here Union expired on Wednesday June 1st and workers and officials are seeking a new contract that would allow them to benefit from shares of the Post-Coivd Recovery Fund.
As of today, casinos in Atlantic City and their online partners are reporting higher revenues than before the Covid-19 pandemic started. Casino spokespeople are quick to point out that the online and sports betting numbers aren’t accurate since they’re only allowed to keep 30% of it and the remaining amount goes to third-party partners. They say that in-person revenue won from gamblers is the accurate metric and not all the casinos have surpassed their pre-pandemic levels.
Negotiation talks are in the works with Caesars Entertainment who own Caesars, Harrah’s, the Tropicana, and MGM Resorts International (which owns the city’s top-performing Casino, the Borgata). The Union President, Bob McDevitt, has been clear that “This is actually the best relationship between the union and the industry that we’ve had in years.”, but he isn’t confident that will lead to a successful contract negation. “We are united, we are ready to fight, and we have very specific asks in a new contract, number one of which is a raise that matters. Our hope is the individual casinos will recognize that these are really big numbers that they are racking up, and that the workers have not had a cost-of-living raise in a while.”
Casino workers, like most Americans, have been greatly affected by rising prices of food and gas. Nikki Schwendemann, who has worked in the Atlantic City casino industry for 37 years, said she would support a strike if it came to that “Mothers and fathers are having a hard time putting food on the table for their children. It’s time for the casinos to give back something to the workers.”
McDevitt said future pickets, possibly at different casinos, are likely. He also said contract talks thus far, while not successful, have been cordial.