Atlantic City pushes for casino worker raise to avert strike

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Atlantic City's local government is urging its dominant industry to avoid a possible strike by paying casino workers more and hiring more of them.

With strike deadlines looming in early July against at least five casinos, Local 54 of the Unite Here union is seeking new contracts to replace those that expired on June 1.

The union has authorized a July 1 strike against the Borgata and the three casinos owned by Caesars Entertainment — Caesars, Harrah’s and Tropicana — and a July 3 strike against Hard Rock if new deals are not in place by then.

Union leadership would need to take an additional vote before a walkout could begin.

But the City Council hopes it won't get to that.

At Wednesday night's meeting, the council passed a resolution supporting the workers and hoping to head off a strike.

The measure was taken to “urge casino employers to raise wages and staffing and negotiate in good faith to avert a strike.”

“Inflation is pressuring working people, and we want the union workers and families to be made whole,” councilmember Kaleem Shabazz said in an interview Thursday. “Atlantic City needs a peaceful summer free of strife and uncertainty. The Council encourages continued good faith negotiations to reach a peaceful resolution.”

As of Thursday, no new agreements had been reached with the union. Bally's and Ocean have signed so-called “me-too” agreements pledging to abide by the terms of contracts reached with larger casino properties, meaning they won't be struck during a possible walkout.

The union has significant leverage on its side, including the prospect of disrupting the crucial July Fourth weekend, which is typically one of the busiest of the year for Atlantic City's casinos.

Then there is the ongoing labor shortage that, even without a strike, has left the casinos with less staff than normal.

And the city is due to host the national NAACP conference in mid-July, with thousands of hotel rooms already booked.

The union says it is seeking “significant” wage increases in the next contract to help workers deal with financial setbacks caused by the coronavirus pandemic and rapidly rising prices.


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