Atlantic City Casino Strike Averted

In the first contract to expire following the pandemic, the Atlantic City casinos reached an agreement with Local 54, the union representing, waiters, bartenders, housekeeping and other trades. The agreement reflected the hard work and dedication of union members in pushing the industry to recovery.

Atlantic City Casino Strike Averted

After weeks of negotiations, four of Atlantic City’s main casinos have reached a new agreement with Local 54 of the Unite Here union, avoiding a strike just in the nick of time for July 4 weekend, one of the biggest of the year for the city.

The union announced late on Thursday, June 30 that it had reached agreements with Caesars’ three properties, including its flagship casino, the Tropicana and Harrah’s, as well as the Borgata, which is operated by MGM Resorts International.

That left the Hard Rock as the lone holdout, although executives and the union reached an agreement hours before the July 3 strike deadline. Its contract expired after the other properties, meaning it has two additional days before its deadline.

Bob McDevitt, president of Unite Here, told the Associated Press called it “the best contract we’ve ever had” and that the union “got everything we wanted and everything we needed,” including substantial pay raises for workers, in order to combat inflation and rising costs of living.

Exact terms of the settlement have yet to be disclosed, as the terms still need to be fully ratified by membership before they can be implemented, according to Unite Here spokeswoman Bethany Holmes.

This latest labor struggle was somewhat unique for Atlantic City, in that most of its previous standoffs were centered around healthcare and retirement benefits. This instance, however, was primarily concerned with workers’ base pay and compensation. Union officials indicated that the increase in wages was “significant.” Multiple casino workers were quoted by the Associated Press as saying that it was the most substantial pay raise of their careers.

A strike would have been the city’s first since 2016, when Trump Taj Mahal workers refused to return to work after a bankruptcy court nullified pension and healthcare benefits. Interestingly enough, the casino was then sold to Hard Rock in 2018, which was why the contract expired at a different time.

Past strikes have turned violent and cast Atlantic City’s image badly, but union officials and casino executives did all they could to avoid that again.

Previous reports had indicated that the city’s casinos could lose upwards of $2 million per day each if a strike had taken place. Operators had argued that revenue numbers were being inflated due to the fact that a large percentage of online and sports betting revenue is withheld, and that in reality they were struggling to keep pace with pre-pandemic averages.

Those arguments appear to have been unsuccessful, given the recent settlements.

Sources told GGB News that casino executives understood the importance of the union workers in rebounding from the pandemic and were prepared to reward them with higher pay, and attempting to keep pace with soaring inflation.

Following the agreements, Hard Rock International was the only company to offer a comment.

“We are extremely pleased that we were once again able to reach a successful settlement with Unite Here Local 54 to increase wages and benefits for our deserving team members,” said Jim Allen, chairman of the company. “We look forward to further expanding this excellent relationship at both the national and local levels as we expand our iconic brand.”

This represents a major victory for Unite Here, but labor strife is also afoot more than 300 miles to the north in Lincoln, Rhode Island. Local 54’s sister chapter, Local 26, has authorized a strike Friday against Bally’s Twin River Casino over much the same issues: wages and staffing levels.

Bally’s Atlantic City has a “me too” clause in which it automatically agreed to the terms negotiated by the other casinos, and wasn’t in danger of being impacted by an Atlantic City strike. Ocean Casino Resort has a similar agreement and did not take part in the negotiations.

The union seeks wages to match the cost of living, and increased hires, with more full-time schedules. The two sides met June 24 and were set to negotiate again on June 29.

According to spokeswoman Lynette Ng, the contract expired July 1.

Bally’s spokeswoman Patti Doyle did not comment on the strike- vote, saying that the company will “speak to our union colleagues at the negotiating table.”

The union represents about 200 of the 1,900 employees, Doyle said. The union does not represent workers at the company’s Tiverton casino.