Atlantic City Union Workers Threaten July 1 Strike

Workers for Atlantic City’s largest casino union authorized a July 1 strike date for four Atlantic City casinos as negotiations for a new union contract continue. The four casinos are Bally's, Caesars, Harrah's and the Tropicana. A strike against Trump Taj Mahal has already been authorized. Union President Bob McDevitt (l.) says they are prepared to strike ahead of the busy July 4th weekend.

As if Atlantic City didn’t have enough problems already, the city’s main casino union voted to authorize a July strike date for four city properties, timing it to coincide with the busy July 4th holiday weekend.

Members of Local 54 of the Unite-HERE union were voting on whether to authorize a strike against Bally’s, Caesars, Harrah’s and the Tropicana. The union has already authorized a strike against the Trump Taj Mahal in a previous vote.

If the union votes yes, which appears likely, it would authorize the union’s negotiating committees to call July 1 strikes if contract agreements are not reached with the five casinos. The vote does not mean the union has to strike—the Taj Mahal vote, for example, was taken months ago—but union officials have made it clear they are ready to call for a work stoppage on July 1.

Three other city casinos—Borgata, Golden Nugget and Resorts—have been given an indefinite extension by the union, which says talks with them have been making progress, according to the Associated Press.

Atlantic City’s casino market has shown signs of stabilizing and casino revenue is up slightly for the year. The union says workers made sacrifices while the casinos were struggling that now should be reversed. The union’s labor agreements expired in 2014, but were extended.

“To me the most insulting thing is that in 2011, this union gave up part of its package to help the casinos when they were struggling,” union president Bob McDevitt told the AP. “These five employers clearly are not in touch with what their employees are feeling. What is happening at the table is an insult. The day before a strike vote, Tropicana offered a five-year wage freeze. The day before!”

Tony Rodio, president of Tropicana Entertainment, which runs the Tropicana and the Taj Mahal, responded to McDevitt in a press statement that the company has invested $160 million at the Tropicana since 2011.

“Our employees have benefited from increased hours, increased gratuities and job security while 33 percent of the market’s 12 casinos have been forced to close and thousands have lost their jobs,” he said. “It should also be noted that since emerging from bankruptcy in 2010, current ownership has not withdrawn one penny of investment from Tropicana Atlantic City while continuing to risk millions in an uncertain market.”

Kevin Ortzman, president of Caesars and Bally’s, also released a statement saying parent company Caesars Entertainment’s “goal remains to negotiate a fair resolution to keep our employees at work for their sake and to continue supporting Atlantic City’s revitalization, which has our full commitment.”