A Friday strike deadline looms for four Atlantic City casinos as union negotiators and the venues’ management still seek to reach a compromise for new contracts. Local 54 of the Unite Here union has set a 12:01 a.m. time limit to reach an agreement with the Borgata, Caesars, Harrah’s and Tropicana: if not met, it has authorized a strike against those properties.
Negotiations continue today, Thursday, in an effort to avoid a costly and disruptive strike during one of Atlantic City’s busiest weekends of the year. A fifth casino, Hard Rock Atlantic City, faces a similar deadline set for early Sunday. The union has said it is seeking “significant” salary increases in new contracts to help workers keep pace with rapidly rising prices.
Even if the union does go on strike, the casinos and their hotels are expected to remain open for business, reports Associated Press. Staffing levels and the quality of service, however, could vary greatly depending on many variables. Casinos that are struck could use nonunion employees and management to keep the property sites operating at an acceptable level.
The union was due to resume negotiations with MGM Resorts International -owner of the Borgata- Thursday morning. It negotiated with Caesars Entertainment -owner of Caesars, Harrah’s and the Tropicana- for hours on Wednesday without reaching a new deal, according to the cited source.
Bally’s and Ocean have reached “me-too” agreements with the union, meaning they commit to adopting the terms of contracts eventually reached with larger properties in the city, and will not face a walkout. Resorts and the Golden Nugget, two other smaller casinos, are also not at risk of a labor stoppage for the time being as the union has yet to negotiate with them.
CBS3 reported on Thursday that about 6,000 workers at the four Atlantic City casinos facing the Friday deadline would go on strike that day, ahead of the historically busy Fourth of July weekend. The workers include housekeepers, bartenders, catering staff and cooks, among other employees. Union representatives argue that higher wages could attract more workers, which would alleviate the ongoing casino labor shortage.
The resorts “are feeling a renewed sense of energy and excitement returning to Atlantic City,” Joe Lupo, president of the Casino Association of New Jersey (CANJ), said in a statement on Monday. “We can’t wait to welcome new and returning guests to enjoy our world-class entertainment options and experience firsthand all that our beachfront destination has to offer this Fourth of July weekend.”
Joe Lupo, president of the Casino Association of New Jersey (CANJ)
But walkouts could cost the oceanside resorts a collective $2.6 million per day, the workers’ union says. Local 54 of the Unite Here union said Borgata could face a $1.6 million loss; and Caesars, Harrah’s and Tropicana could collectively lose up to $1 million a day. The union’s report assumes that a strike would cause revenue to decline by 25% in the third quarter of this year compared to the same period in 2021.
However, Jane Bokunewicz, director of the Lloyd Levenson Institute at Stockton University, which studies the Atlantic City casino industry, told Associated Press that the financial impact of a strike is difficult to predict given the number of variables in play, which include the number of targeted casinos, and the public’s willingness to patronize them in such an event.
Contracts in Atlantic City expired on May 31. Among the main demands from workers are a 38% rise in minimum wage, to $18 per hour, and increased housekeeping hires for daily hotel room tidying, reports Bloomberg. Some room attendants have reported physical pain as a result of doing heavier cleanings amid short staffing.
Last week, the Atlantic City’s City Council unanimously passed a resolution in support of the casino workers in their ongoing demands, and urged casino employers “to raise wages and staffing and negotiate in good faith” to avert a strike. “Our hope is there doesn’t have to be a strike,” said Councilman Kaleem Shabazz. “Workers need to make livable wages.”