Atlantic City Casino Workers to Strike in July, Calling for Higher Wages

A previously mulled strike led by casino union workers will happen after all, following a vote on Wednesday during which the members of Local 54 of the Unite Here decided to call a strike against Atlantic City’s casinos. The issue is that worker contract agreements have expired and as a result, workers feel their jobs aren’t protected nor are they adequately remunerated.

Two Strikes to Take Place and Call for Casinos’ Attention

The question of additional benefits and payments is also being raised with the strike date now locked in as July 1. The strike will first be called against the Borgata and Caesars-owned casinos, including Harrah’s Tropicana, and Caesars. Another strike will follow on July 3 against Hard Rock.

Union workers have acknowledged that the strike may be called off should there be an agreement reached before any of those dates. This gives the Atlantic City’s nine casino properties time to react and attempt to assuage the thousands of union members who are prepared to stage pickets and disrupt business.

Bob McDevitt, the Union president has told the press that his people meant business and that the industry should not take the protest lightly, adding that it was a no “BS thing.” The issue that workers face is that their contracts expired several weeks back and casinos have not yet negotiated new ones.

Casinos have been treading cautiously and not making any public statements yet following the announcement of the strikes. However, not all casinos are on the line as Bally’s and Ocean Casino Resort have special agreements, which means that McDevitt and union workers will not strike against them.

He added that Resorts and Golden Nugget is in a sort of “yellow zone,” but cautioned others that they were in what he described as “the red zone.” Union workers want to have some cushion against rising costs of living and inflation. According to some workers, all the union asks for is paying the workers fairly. To do so, significant wage increases would be needed.

Catch-22 in Atlantic City’s Casino Industry

But calling for wage increases is a bit of a Catch-22. On the one hand, keeping team members would require offering them better benefits. On the other, it’s hard to always hire new people because casinos have to budget carefully in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the possibility of a return of lockdowns has not been ruled out completely.

Union workers insist that casinos and online gaming partners are making a bigger buck compared to before the pandemic, but casinos argue that much of that additional revenue goes to third parties. In fact, casinos tend to keep only 30% of the money made through online and sports betting.

How this pans out will depend solely on how willing the casinos are to negotiate and what conditions union workers would find acceptable.

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