LOCAL54 RALLY (copy)

Striking Local 54 Taj Mahal workers hold a march and rally outside the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City on Thursday, July 21, 2016. (The Press of Atlantic City / Ben Fogletto)

ATLANTIC CITY — Casino and hospitality employees will head to the polls Friday to vote for union leadership, and the choice is between two familiar tickets.

Bob McDevitt, president of UNITE HERE Local 54 since 1996, is being challenged by Al Tabei for control of the labor union that represents nearly one-third of casino workers in Atlantic City.

Voting is open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. at the Atlantic City Convention Center.

McDevitt and Tabei have squared off in four previous union elections, the most recent in 2016, and there is no love lost between them.

McDevitt, 57, characterized Tabei as an opportunist who has not participated in union activities, including the 2016 workers’ strike that lead to the eventual closing of the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort.

Tabei, 67, contends that McDevitt has done little to improve the quality of employment for union members, pointing to a reduction in the number of full-time jobs, health benefits and pension security.

Underlining the election's importance is a casino industry that saw total gaming revenue cut in half over the course of a decade, the number of properties reduced and employment numbers shrink.

McDevitt said the past 10 years has been spent “responding to that and trying to meet the needs of the members while dealing with an industry that was imploding.”

Tabei said Local 54’s leadership has failed to adequately represent members through the difficult times and was, instead, more concerned with “advancing personal agendas.”

In the last three years, total gaming has started to increase, two new casino properties opened and, for the first time in almost five years, the industry is employing more than 30,000 people.

McDevitt is running at the top of the ticket with the union’s current Vice President Javier Soto and Secretary-Treasurer Donna DeCaprio. Tabei is running with Laurie Benninghoven as a vice presidential candidate and Frank Viering as secretary-treasurer.

The timing of this year’s election is important for the casino workers’ union since the industry’s collective bargaining agreement is set to be renegotiated next year for all nine of the Atlantic City casino properties.

Although workers at Ocean Casino Resort have not yet voted to become Local 54 members, the expectation is that they will before the 2020 industry-wide bargaining begins.

Employees of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City — which opened at the site of the shuttered Taj Mahal in June 2018 — recently voted in favor of unionizing.

Contact: 609-272-7222 ddanzis@pressofac.com Twitter @ACPressDanzis

Staff Writer

I cover Atlantic City government and the casino industry since joining The Press in early 2018. I formerly worked as a politics & government reporter for NJ Herald and received the First Amendment: Art Weissman Memorial NJPA Award two years in a row.

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