Atlantic City Casino Union Claims Victory, as New Contracts Reached

The Atlantic City casino union Unite Here Local 54 has reached new collective bargaining agreements with MGM Resorts and Caesars Entertainment. The contracts cover workers at Borgata, Caesars, Tropicana, and Harrah’s.

Atlantic City casino workers ready to strike outside Caesars on the Boardwalk on June 30. The July 1 strike was averted after the casino union reached new terms with Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts. (Image: Unite Here Local 54)

The union’s contracts terminated June 1, but the casinos have upheld the prior terms during the month-long persistent deliberations. The Unite Here trade group was threatening to strike as early as today. But the confirmation of new pay and benefits structures for union members avoids a picket ahead of the Fourth of July holiday weekend.

The union was fighting for “significant” raises to “move our workers more firmly into the middle class.” Union brass claims it achieved that mission with its new terms with MGM and Caesars.

BREAKING: CONTRACT VICTORY!!! Casino Workers at Borgata and Caesars, Tropicana and Harrahs casinos reached a tentative agreement with their companies!
(A strike deadline remains in effect for Hard Rock casino for July 3)

— UNITE HERE Local 54 (@UHLocal54) July 1, 2022

Ocean Casino, Resorts, Golden Nugget, and Bally’s have agreements with Unite Here that pledge to uphold the terms MGM and Caesars agreed to with the union. But Hard Rock remains negotiating its own conditions with the Unite Here chapter, meaning the Boardwalk property remains at risk of a strike in the coming days.

Unprecedented Pay

Union members over the past month have publicly expressed their disappointment over what they believe to be inadequate pay. Some workers with more than three decades of service to their casino employer said they were still making less than $20 an hour — or roughly $41,600 a year.

Bob McDevitt, president of the Local 54 Unite Here chapter, says raises are on the way.

This is the best contract we’ve ever had,” McDevitt told the Associated Press. “We got everything we wanted and everything we needed. The workers delivered a contract that they can be proud of for years to come.”

Neither the union nor the casinos immediately disclosed the new terms. Brick-and-mortar gaming revenue in Atlantic City has returned to better pre-pandemic numbers.

Through the first five months of 2022, gross gaming revenue from land-based slot machines and table games totaled $1.08 billion — a little more than 5% higher than the $1.027 the casinos won through five months in 2019.

Smoking Ban Odds Improve

Atlantic City casino workers will soon see their paychecks increase. And the odds are good that their work environments might also improve in the coming months.

Atlantic City casinos can designate up to 25% of their gaming floor space for indoor tobacco smoking. But a legislative effort in Trenton to extinguish the clean indoor air loophole afforded to the casinos continues to gain traction.

Senate Bill 264 and Assembly Bill 2151 are identical pieces of legislation seeking to eliminate indoor smoking resort-wide in Atlantic City.

More than half of the New Jersey General Assembly — 43 of the 80 elected officials — now supports making Atlantic City casinos entirely smoke-free. And half of the 40-seat state Senate have lent their backing to S264.

Atlantic City casinos say they need indoor smoking to compete with nearby casinos in Philadelphia, where smoking is permitted on up to half of the casino floor. But employees argue that they’re being forced to work in unhealthy environments.

The New Jersey Legislature is currently on its summer recess. Lawmakers are set to reconvene in September.

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