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Key Showdown Between AC Casinos & Union

22 August 2011 by admin

new_jerseyThe casino industry in Atlantic City, New Jersey is as fragile as ever. In a weak economy, the casinos are looking for ways to cut into their losses and head back onto the path toward prosperity. In doing so, though, they are now butting heads with the biggest labor union in the gambling industry. The fate of this showdown could have a major impact in the economic stability of the New Jersey gambling market.

Nine of the eleven Atlantic City casinos will have their current labor contracts expire on September 15. One other casino, Resorts Casino, is negotiating a new contract after coming under new ownership, but does not have a deadline. That means all but one of the city’s casinos are currently engaged in high-stakes negotiations with UNITE-HERE, Local 54.

Facing major budget deficits and an economy in which tourists are not spending as much money in casinos, the casino industry is asking for concessions from the union. The casinos are asking that the union workers for the first time pay toward their healthcare coverage and pension benefits. Currently, unlike most of the nation’s workers, the union workers get free healthcare and pension contributions without paying anything into it themselves.

The union has rejected the idea, with Local 54 president Bob McDevitt saying that they need to come to a compromise “without driving employees into poverty.” McDevitt said that he is willing to listen to other compromises.

The negations with Resorts Casino have been particularly tense, with the union accusing the casino of forcing workers into poverty. To demonstrate that, the union led a drive to sign up workers for food stamps. Dennis Gomes, CEO of Resorts Casino, said that the casino “wanted to make an example of us for the entire industry.”

McDevitt warned that if the casinos and the union don’t reach an agreement by September 15, the union may strike. The union has done that before in 1986, 1999 and 2004. McDevitt then offered another warning for the casinos. “I can’t overemphasize the kind of danger a strike would have on the entire city.”

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