As demand for casino workers continues to mount from Las Vegas to Atlantic City, unionized staffers in New Jersey are coming together to leverage their worth and demand better pay from operators. Bob McDevitt of Unite Here Local 54, a union representing over 10,000 of Atlantic City casino workers, argues that the current labor negotiations between casinos and union representatives will focus on their payment rather than being promised future benefits.
Health and retirement aside, McDevitt says casino workers want to take more money home at the end of the day. Put this way, the members of Unite Here Local 54 want to be middle class. According to McDevitt, a big pay hike has long been overdue, and this may now change given the hunger for qualified professionals.
Casino Workers Have Strong Bargaining Chips
However, time is of the essence as contracts are set to terminate at the end of the month at eight of the nine casinos in the city. This means that both casinos and workers would be keen to reach an agreement, and both sides have leverage, casino workers arguably more so than the properties which are now being faced with a challenge to the PILOT relief bill that exempts online gaming and betting revenue from tax and a looming ban on indoor smoking.
The pandemic has been somewhat helpful to casino workers, though, with the bulk of them being in a better position to negotiate more meaningful job conditions. The wage paid to dealers in Atlantic City averages $25/hour, but union representatives are confident that employees, in general, should be better remunerated.
According to Tropicana bartender Janey Negron, the issue is not so much the current remuneration so much as the standard of living constantly rising, with essential prices going up. Casino income has been struggling, however, which could make it harder for casino workers to elicit better pay. In comparison to 2019, casinos in AC totaled $2.55 billion last year.
Casinos Seem Happy with Workers’ Demands
The present situation is not too bad, however. Casino Association of New Jersey president Joe Lupo argues that there isn’t much reason for concern. Historically, casinos in the city and workers have been getting along well, and an increase in wages and salaries should not be an issue he argues.
In fact, Lupo’s casino, Hard Rock Atlantic City of which he is president, has already bumped salaries amidst the pandemic in a bid to retain and attract workers – especially after many were furloughed during the first months of the pandemic. With negotiations still ongoing, casino workers can expect another salary and wage increase.