ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey,. (AP) – Hundreds of Atlantic City casino workers picketed near Tropicana on Wednesday as the Nine Casino Employees’ Union insists on a new contract giving them a share of gambling halls after the resumption of COVID-19.
The picketing is taking place indefinitely in Atlantic City: casinos and their online partners are now collectively earning more money than before the pandemic.
But casinos say these statistics are misleading because they can only save about 30% of money online and sports betting, and the rest goes to their partners. They say the personal income received from players is the most important indicator, and not all casinos have surpassed the level before the pandemic.
The old contract between Casino and Local 54 Union Unite Here expired early Wednesday. Union leaders and workers have said they will demonstrate as often as necessary to show the casino that they are serious about their demand that workers be able to achieve when casinos try to do so.
“We are united, we are ready to fight, and we have very specific requests in the new contract, the number one of which is an increase that matters,” said union president Bob McDevitt. “We hope that some casinos recognize that these are really big numbers that they are accumulating, and that employees have not increased the cost of living for a long time.”
The union is in talks with Caesars Entertainment, which owns Caesars, Harrah’s and Tropicana, as well as with MGM Resorts International, which owns the city’s most efficient facility, Borgata. Tropicana was chosen for the picket in recognition of Caesar’s great role as the largest casino employer in the city.
The company declined to comment on Wednesday.
Workers surrounded the casino, picketing on the waterfront, on Pacific Avenue and along side streets, but did not prevent people from entering and leaving the casino. They chanted, beat drums and plastic buckets, blew whistles.
Nikki Schwendemann has worked in the Atlantic City casino industry for 37 years, most recently as a food operator at Borgata’s Angeline restaurant.
“Casino workers need a raise,” she said. “Over the years, we’ve given a lot to casinos, and now gas and food prices have gone up and people are in despair,” she said. “Mothers and fathers have a hard time putting food for their children on the table. It’s time for the casino to return something to the workers. “
She said she would support the strike if the union decided to declare it. McDevitt, president of the union, said a vote by union members on whether to sanction the strike could be held by the end of June, but was not scheduled.
Clear Belfield as a housekeeper at Hard Rock Casino, where she said she cleans 12 rooms a day.
“We work hard and deserve a raise,” she said. “The price of goods is rising and we have to pay the bills.”
Gloria Rosario is a chef at Borgata and has been working at Atlantic City Casino for 25 years. She said she loves her job, but may have to look for a job in another industry if the new contract ultimately does not provide for a significant increase.
“What we do is not enough to live,” she said. “I have four children to support. You have to buy their clothes, their food. It’s hard. “
McDevitt said future pickets, possibly at various casinos, are likely. He also said that the contract negotiations so far, although not successful, have been cordial.
“It’s actually the best union-industry relationship we’ve had in recent years,” McDevitt said. “Whether this will lead to successful contract negotiations or a giant struggle can only be guessed at. But we will continue until we win. “
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