The leading Atlantic City casino union is seeking substantially higher wages for its members, as new contract negotiations continue.
Bob McDevitt of Unite Here Local 54, the Atlantic City casino union that represents around 10,000 workers employed by the nine resorts, says increased pay is at the forefront of the labor group’s ongoing negotiations.
Speaking with the Associated Press this week, McDevitt explained that unlike in previous contract deliberations that focused on better pensions and health benefits, this year’s bargaining has much more to do with take-home pay.
“It is our intention to move our workers more firmly into the middle class,” McDevitt told the AP.
McDevitt said casino workers deserve a “significant” pay increase. To bring awareness to their contract negotiations, many union members last week began donning buttons on their uniforms that declare, “Casino Workers Need a Raise.”
The AP adds that Local 54 union contracts are set to terminate at the end of this month at eight of the nine casinos in Atlantic City. Ocean Casino is the lone exception. But the Boardwalk property has upheld contract terms imposed at the other eight casinos, despite not having its own individual agreement with Unite Here.
The most recent union terms with Atlantic City casinos — reached in late 2020 — guaranteed job security for most workers amid the pandemic. The labor document assured ongoing health coverage and a slight increase in wages, as well as many other important protections. Many Atlantic City workers were furloughed during the darkest periods of COVID-19.
According to job site Indeed.com, the average salary for a casino table game dealer in Atlantic City is around $25/hour. The majority of that income is derived from tips.
Union officials and members now contend that the casinos should better reward workers for their commitment to their employer throughout the most challenging time.
The wages are not what they should be,” said Janey Negron, a Tropicana bartender for the past 22 years. “Everything is going up: gas, food, rent.”
Casino income, however, is not going up. Brick-and-mortar gross gaming revenue, which the casinos argue is the best indicator of their resorts’ business, totaled $2.55 billion last year. That’s nearly 5% below the $2.68 billion that the casinos won in 2019.
Casino Association of New Jersey President Joe Lupo, who is the president of Hard Rock Atlantic City, says the relationship between the casinos and union is strong. He expects new contracts to be reached prior to the current terms’ May 31 expirations.
Lupo says many casinos in town, including his own Hard Rock, have already increased pay amid the pandemic. But he recognizes that for the town to remain competitive and attract the best talent, the industry must property compensate its people.
McDevitt did not say what sort of pay raise would represent a “significant” increase. The US Bureau of Labor Statistic’s Consumer Price Index, which measures average prices across the country, rose by 8.5% in March alone. It was the largest monthly year-over-year gain in four decades.
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