Atlantic City is bracing itself for a strike that will impact all casinos, or rather, all but four, who have agreed to sit down and clinch a split-second agreement with Local 54 of the Unite Here casino worker union. The conflict between workers and casinos has been brewing for about a month now with the previous contract agreements expiring in June and workers demanding clarity on what to do next.
New Tentative Agreements Reached
However, four casinos may have now agreed to offer a number of benefits to workers, including significant pay rises. As a result, the union will most likely not stage protests during the Fourth of July weekend, which could have had significant implications for the industry.
The four casinos acquiescing to worker demands included the Borgata, and all three of Caesars Entertainment’s casinos, Harrah’s, the Tropicana, and Caesars. However, not everyone is off the hook. Casino workers are threatening to take the fight to Hard Rock Casino which has not yet reached any tentative agreement with workers.
But given the circumstances, it will be highly unlikely that no agreement is reached. Reporting on the case, the Associated Press interviewed some people on the ground. One Ronette Lark, a housekeeper at Harrah’s, said that this was the biggest raise she had seen in the 24 years she worked at the property.
However, both the casinos and the union have been withholding the details for the time being. For Local 54’s part, it’s because the proposal needs to be presented to all union members and be ratified before any official statements can be made.
Significant increases in salary have been introduced to help workers tackle the rising costs of living. The settlement was not entirely unexpected although some industry observers remained cautious about the casinos taking a stand. However, the timing of the strike was well-executed by Local 54.
With the pandemic still weighing down on casino results, suppressing economic activity during one of the busiest weekends would have been a grave error on the part of the properties. Some have said that they could still operate with their non-union staff members, but this would have been hard.
Workforce the Most Important Casino Asset
Demoralizing your workforce at a time when it’s hard to find enough workers is a poorly-advised strategy in general. In the meantime, the new contracts are expected to add more health benefits, better life-work balance, and significantly, the desired increase in wages.
Atlantic City casinos have been able to keep their backyard clean of strike action. This has not appeased the unions though, as their membership has only increased. The last time AC saw a strike, it was over the Trump Taj Mahal casino which operated without health care and pension benefits and ended up bankrupt.
Local 54 fought hard to get justice for its members, but the casino was shut down in October of that same year. It was later acquired and reopened as a Hard Rock Atlantic City back in 2018. The current demand for better pay has been fueled by casinos’ mounting results and the adoption of the Internet and interactive gambling options.
However, those numbers, the casino argues, are misleading, as they are split with third parties that assist and make it possible to set up the infrastructure.