By WAYNE PARRY – Associated Press
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ (AP) — Atlantic City’s largest casino workers’ union will vote Wednesday on whether to authorize a strike against the city’s casinos, with which they have yet to sign new contract agreements.
Branch 54 of the Unite Here union says its members will decide whether union leaders can call a strike at any or all of the nine casinos. The deals with the casinos expired almost two weeks ago and talks have yet to result in a new deal.
“We’ve been saying for some time that casino workers need a real raise,” union spokeswoman Bethany Holmes said. but we are voting this week to give the negotiation committee the power to call a strike if necessary.”
No target date has been set for a possible walkout, but an obvious date would be the July 4th bank holiday weekend, which as one of the busiest times of the year is crucial for casinos’ business plans.
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A “yes” does not result in an immediate strike. It simply gives the union bargaining committee, made up of workers from all nine casinos, the power to call a strike if they see fit.
But it would likely increase the pressure on casinos as they negotiate with the union, which says it is seeking “significant” wage increases in the next deal to help workers deal with financial setbacks brought on by the coronavirus pandemic and caused the rapidly rising prices.
The industrial action comes at an uncertain time in Atlantic City: The casinos and their online partners are now collectively making more money than before the pandemic.
But casinos say these stats are misleading because they can only keep about 30% of the money from online and sports betting, while the rest goes to their third-party partners. They say personal player earnings are the key metric, and not all casinos have exceeded their pre-pandemic levels.
The union went on strike for 34 days in 2004 and went on strike at the former Trump Taj Mahal Casino in July 2016, ending with the casino’s closure in October of that year. It has since reopened as Hard Rock among other owners.
So far, the union has struck agreements with Ocean Casino Resort and Bally’s to match contract terms eventually reached with some of the city’s larger casino companies, but no deals have been finalized.
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