Atlantic City Casino Workers Nearly Unanimously Approve New Union Contracts

Atlantic City casino workers almost unanimously ratified their new collective bargaining agreements with seven of their employers, their labor union reps said yesterday.

Atlantic City casino workers and Unite Here Local 54 President Bob McDevitt in June 2022. Many casino workers in town are taking home more money after reaching new contracts with their resort employers. (Image: AP)

Unite Here Local 54 struck new labor terms with seven of Atlantic City’s nine casinos just ahead of the Fourth of July Independence Day holiday. The union was threatening to strike those casinos unless the resorts agreed to significantly increase pay for its members.

MGM Resorts, Caesars Entertainment, and Hard Rock International eventually met the union’s demands. By doing son, they avoided a worker walkout during what is typically Atlantic City’s busiest weekend of the year.

Terms of the collective agreements were revealed this week. The minimum base pay for a union member employed at one of those seven casinos has, effective immediately, increased from $16 an hour to $18 an hour — a 12.5% raise. The base pay will further increase over the life of the four-year contracts to $22 an hour by 2026. The union said 99% of its members who voted on the contracts approved of the arrangements.

It’s hard to sell a housekeeping job at $16 an hour,” union president Bob McDevitt told the Associated Press. “It’s a lot easier to sell one at $20 or $22 an hour.”

MGM Resorts operates Borgata, the city’s top-grossing casino. Caesars Entertainment operates Caesars, Harrah’s, and Tropicana. Hard Rock operates its namesake property.

The union successfully argued with the casinos that their members need pay raises to keep them in the middle class, as record inflation continues to hurt the purchasing power of the dollar. Unite Here has historically focused on health and retirement benefits. But this round of contract negotiations was more squarely intent on take-home pay.

Negotiations Continue

Seven Atlantic City casinos have new union contracts in place. That will keep the resorts staffed and operating smoothly throughout the town’s first full summer free of pandemic restrictions. Along with the MGM, Caesars, and Hard Rock properties, Ocean Casino Resort and Bally’s have agreed to uphold and honor the collective bargaining terms reached by the five others.

A unified citywide labor agreement is thought to be beneficial to the casinos and the workers. Collective terms prevent one worker from making less performing the same job as someone at another resort. A combined pay structure is also said to lessen a casino’s employee poaching ability.

Two casinos, however, have not yet agreed to Unite Here’s new bargaining terms. Union officials say discussions continue with Resorts and Golden Nugget.

McDevitt said the union’s strike authorization approved last month by its members means a walkout at those two casinos could happen anytime.

Inflation Continues Skyrocket

Though the US Federal Reserve recently increased interest rates by 1.5 percentage points in an effort to slow record inflation, the first monthly report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows it had little to no impact.

Inflation maintained its climb in June, as prices for everyday goods and services soared 9.1% from a year ago. The rate eclipsed economists’ expectations of 8.8%.

What cost $100 in 2019 today costs $116 — a 16% spike.

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