Union Accuses Casinos of Violating COVID-19 Safety Regulations

NJ Casino Workers Gather to Urge the State to Forbid Smoking in Casinos

Local 54 of the Unite Here union recently stated that four resorts are failing to clean their hotel rooms daily, as mandated in a 2020 order related to COVID prevention. On Wednesday, June 8, the union filed a complaint with the state Department of Community Affairs, leveling accusations against Caesars, Harrah’s, Tropicana, and the Golden Nugget.

The Local Union Is Likely Using the Scandal to Its Advantage

The union, which represents housekeeping workers at Atlantic City’s casinos, claims that the main reason for these shortcomings is because casinos lack the necessary staff. This shortage is due to low wages and unfavorable working conditions. President of the union, Bob McDevitt, stated that Atlantic City workers are just part of the larger overworked and understaffed workforce.

McDevitt is currently engaged in negotiations with local casinos, as their contracts with the union expired on June 1. He is seeking to secure a significant pay raise for union members in addition to the standard framework for compensation and benefits. It is likely that the accusations are part of an effort to apply pressure and secure a more favorable deal. Unite Here Local 54 has updated its website and has provided tourists with a list of alternative accommodations which will not be disrupted, should negotiations take longer than expected.

Housekeeping workers reiterated their complaints about the low wages and high workload. They also drew attention to the fact that due to COVID prevention measures, workers cannot attend overnight rooms so often, which results in less money from tips. Teresa Lopez, who works as a housekeeper at Caesars, stated that the increased workload did not lead to increased pay and has even negatively impacted her health. The aim of the ongoing negotiations by the union is to avoid such situations. Representatives hope a wage increase would attract more applicants and reduce the overall workload.

Casinos Expressed a Commitment to Guest Safety but Admitted Staffing Problems

Tom Pohlman, Golden Nugget Casino’s Executive Vice President and General Manager, stated that all rooms get thoroughly cleaned between new reservations. He acknowledged that Golden Nugget was experiencing difficulties finding sufficient staff, which prevented the resort from routinely cleaning all overnight stays, but expressed his assurance that on-demand housekeeping services were available to anyone who needed them. “Golden Nugget offers bonuses for housekeeping staff that clean room credits above and beyond what is required,” Pohlman added. However, such incentives alone have so far proven insufficient to prevent the casino’s staffing issues.

New Jersey’s Department of Community Affairs issued a statement on this case and confirmed that they had received the complaint. There was no additional comment, but an upcoming investigation is within the realm of possibility, which will only strengthen the union’s negotiating position.

Author: Ian Douglas