Tough Times in Atlantic City? Casinos Looking to Cut Salaries… Unions Balking

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Talk about being down on your luck.

Over the last 4 1/2 years, Atlantic City’s gambling halls have lost $1.5 billion worth of business and thousands of jobs as casinos open in surrounding states, and the sluggish economy has gamblers spending less freely.

So with union contracts with nine of the 11 casinos expiring soon, both the casinos and the workers are trying to make up lost ground at the other’s expense.

Sounds like this might lead to a strike, which would be bad for both sides.

The union, Local 54 of Unite-HERE, has come out swinging, accusing casinos of wanting to institute a “sharecropper economy,” a loaded term in the majority African-American city that’s also the nation’s second-largest gambling resort.

It has picketed one casino three times, handed out leaflets on the Boardwalk urging customers not to patronize gambling halls that mistreat their workers, and told convention groups to take their business elsewhere.

One unnamed Resorts executive says the union is on a “crazy path of self-destruction” that fails to recognize the industry’s ongoing hard times.

Resorts is one of two casinos not involved in contract talks, but they are looking to reduce pay by $3 an hour.

The union has picketed three times outside Resorts, helped some of its employees sign up for food stamps, and continues to target its convention clientele.

Many workers with 20 or more years of experience saw their pay fall from $14.55 an hour to $9.83.

Resorts, I understand,  has lost three large convention bookings to groups who were contacted by Local 54,

Robert Griffin, CEO of Trump Entertainment Resorts and president of the Casino Association of New Jersey, said the industry group is not taking a position in the ongoing talks, in which each of the nine casinos is bargaining separately with the union. The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa’s contract is in effect for another year.

“Talks continue for Trump, as well as our strike planning,” Griffin said. “We are hopeful to reach an agreement and are working very hard with 54 to avoid a strike.”

We hope so.

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