ATLANTIC CITY — A strike will be called at five city casinos if negotiations don’t yield a new labor contract by July 1, the president of the casino-workers union told the Press of Atlantic City Thursday.
“If we don’t have a deal by July 1, we will be on strike,” said Bob McDevitt, of Unite Here Local 54, which represents about 6,000 workers at the five properties — one-quarter of the casino workforce.
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He disclosed the date as thousands of housekeepers, porters, bartenders and other hospitality workers voted in Boardwalk Hall to authorize a strike at Bally’s Atlantic City, Caesars Atlantic City, Harrah’s Resort and Tropicana Atlantic City. The vote was 96 percent in support of the job action, union officials said.
Workers already authorized a strike against Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort, where owner Carl Icahn, the Wall Street mogul who also owns Tropicana, has supported an unprecedented elimination of health and pension benefits.
The union, which represents about 9,600 workers, has had several negotiation sessions in recent weeks with Caesar’s Entertainment and Tropicana. Another Caesar’s session is scheduled for today.
“Right now there’s no middle ground,” said David Dorfman, who has been a cook at Harrah’s for more than two decades and is on the committee of Harrah’s workers that participate in contract talks. He did not forecast a resolution between the parties. “They’re oceans apart,” said Dorfman, 44, of Hammonton.
Unionized workers gave up vacation and other benefits during contract negotiations in 2011. They want those benefits restored, along with a wage increase for workers, some of whom have seen a total of 80 cents in raises over the past 12 years, according to the union. Dorfman said a 50-cent raise during each of the next five years “is a great place to start” in hammering out a new contract.
Atlantic City gambling revenue has decreased in each of the last nine years. But operating profits and operating profit margins recently started trending upward, as the industry benefits from the sharp reduction of competition that took place in 2014, when four of 12 city casinos closed.
In 2011, “We gave back those concessions because we knew the casinos needed our help,” longtime Bally’s cocktail server Elaine Malloy said Thursday in Boardwalk Hall. “Now it’s time to give back to the workers.”
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Tony Rodio, president of Tropicana Entertainment, said in a statement that the company has reinvested heavily in its Boardwalk resort, and “our employees have benefited from increased hours, increased gratuities, and job security while 33% of the ... (city’s) 12 casinos have been forced to close and thousands have lost their jobs.”
Caesar’s spokesman Stephen Cohen said in a statement: “Our goal remains to negotiate a fair resolution to keep our employees at work and to continue supporting Atlantic City's revitalization, which has our full support.”
The union last went on strike in 2004, when about 10,000 workers left jobs at seven Atlantic City casinos for about a month.
Local 54’s labor contracts expired in September 2014. Most were temporarily extended.
Al Tabei, who has bartended at Bally’s for more than two decades, is challenging McDevitt in an June 24 election for the union’s top post.
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