Key Atlantic City Casinos Reach Labor Peace Before Union’s Deadline

contract handshake

First came Borgata, then the three Caesars Entertainment casino properties in Atlantic City — Caesars, Tropicana, and Harrah’s.

News on Thursday night that the four casinos had reached agreement on a new contract with Unite Here Local 54 — the main union for the bulk of the city’s casino workers — meant that the casino properties most under potential threat of a strike were no longer at risk.

Bally’s and Ocean casinos already were in “The Green Zone,” according to labor leaders, meaning that executives there previously had agreed to accept whatever negotiating terms that other casinos would reach.

Borgata and the Caesars properties narrowly avoided labor strife just before the midnight Thursday/Friday deadline. Hard Rock — the revenue leader among the six Boardwalk casinos — has a Sunday deadline to avoid that fate.

The other two casinos — Resorts and Golden Nugget — had been placed by labor leaders as in “The Yellow Zone,” with their fate unclear.

But with the lucrative July 4 weekend ahead, it seemed unlikely that any casino property would risk standing apart in a showdown over Unite Here Local 54 contract details.

Higher pay a key union achievement

Soaring inflation was a sticking point for labor leaders at the casinos, whereas improved health care benefits have dominated previous talks.

“This is the best contract we’ve ever had,” union President Bob McDevitt told The Associated Press shortly after a deal was reached with the four casinos. “We got everything we wanted and everything we needed. The workers delivered a contract that they can be proud of for years to come.”

“I’m super excited,” Ronnette Lark, a housekeeper at Harrah’s, was quoted by the AP. “I’ve been here 24 years and we’ve never gotten a raise like this. We got big raises.”

Details of the agreements were not released publicly, as they had to be presented to the full union membership and ratified before taking effect. Their approval clearly seems to be a formality.

The last casino strike in Atlantic City ended disastrously in 2016, with Trump Taj Mahal owner Carl Icahn saying that the union’s rejection of his labor terms caused the casino to close, costing thousands of workers their jobs.

The longest labor strike in the city came in 2004 — two years before casino openings in Pennsylvania and New York kicked off a long slide in the city’s total casino revenue.

Thursday’s major progress eased citywide concerns that there might be a negative impact on the annual NAACP convention to be held in Atlantic City July 14-20. The venerable organization typically holds its annual event in much larger cities, so a successful summer experience would aid civic leaders in seeking to attract large events in the future.

Union leaders had estimated that market leader Borgata could have lost up to $1.6 million per day from a strike, with the Caesars Entertainment properties potentially losing a collective $1 million per day.

Each casino was planning to remain open even with a strike, but services likely would have been limited due to a severe staff shortage.

Unite Here represents housekeepers, bartenders, cocktail servers, cooks, bellmen, doormen, and other service jobs at the casinos. Most casino game dealers are members of other unions.

Photo: Shutterstock

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