By WAYNE PARRY, The Associated Press
– ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) – The head of Atlantic City’s main casino workers union said Tuesday that a strike is likely against at least one of five casinos this week.
Bob McDevitt, president of Local 54 of the Unite-HERE union, said the union remains in talks with Bally’s, Caesars, Harrah’s, Tropicana and the Trump Taj Mahal. All five could be hit by walkouts if contracts are not reached by Friday, ahead of the July Fourth holiday weekend.
He said the union’s concern is to ensure casinos continue to provide a decent middle-class living for workers. The union is trying to recoup concessions it made in past years when casinos were in worse financial shape. The casinos say they are committed to a deal that is fair to both sides.
“We want back what we gave up voluntarily to help our employers,” McDevitt said. “They have the memory of a goldfish: Every 10 seconds they forget what you’ve done for them.”
McDevitt said talks are progressing at different rates with Caesars Entertainment, which owns Bally’s, Caesars and Harrah’s, and billionaire Carl Icahn, who owns Tropicana and the Taj Mahal.
“We’re closer in some cases with Trop and closer in some instances with Caesars,” he said.
As expected, the Taj Mahal has been a particular sticking point. Its former owners, Trump Entertainment Resorts, got a bankruptcy court judge to terminate union members’ health care and pension benefits in 2014 before Icahn took the casino over. McDevitt said those cuts cannot be allowed to stand, particularly because of a “most favored employer” clause that gives casinos the right to adopt the terms of a more favorable deal reached with others.
“If the Taj Mahal contract ends up not having health care or pensions or a wage increase, that would quickly become the standard for the rest of the industry,” he said.
A Caesars Entertainment official said the company’s goal is to keep workers on the job under a fair contract. A Tropicana official declined to comment Tuesday.
About 6,500 of the union’s nearly 10,000 workers who serve drinks, cook food and clean hotel rooms would strike if a deal is not reached. Borgata, Resorts and the Golden Nugget would not be affected by a strike because the union is not targeting them, saying they have adopted better stances toward their workers.
Elaine Malloy has served drinks at Bally’s for nearly 26 years, at a base salary before tips of $8.99 an hour.
“It’s a disgrace to work for $8.99 an hour, to pay for a mortgage, utility bills, food, clothing,” she said. “Everything is going up, and my wage hasn’t.”
The union agreed to givebacks or went without increases in benefits and salary in past negotiations to help the casinos as their bottom lines were increasingly threatened by the oversaturated Northeastern U.S. casino market. In 2014, four of Atlantic City’s 12 casinos went out of business. Now, with less competition, their finances are starting to stabilize.
“People are not going to work for 10 years without a wage increase,” McDevitt said. “We’re not in a Stalinist state where you can force workers to work for whatever you say.”
Additional talks with the three Caesars Entertainment casinos and the Tropicana are scheduled for Wednesday and with the Taj Mahal on Thursday.
Source – http://www.philly.com/philly/business/tourism_casinos/20160628_ap_2a72bfa84b1241179b08ab4c1243784b.html