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Atlantic City Casino Workers Authorize Strike


Atlantic City Casino Workers Authorize Strike

by James Parks, Jul 21, 2009

Johanna Moon

Gaming workers at Bally’s and Caesars casinos in Atlantic City voted overwhelmingly over the weekend to authorize a strike if they are unable to reach a contract agreement with management.

The workers have been trying to gain a first contract for two years after voting to form a union with the UAW in 2007.

Says Ed Hendricks, a Caesars slot technician for 15 years:

Nobody wants a strike, but we’re going to stand up to enforce our rights. We have negotiated for almost two years, but instead of reaching an agreement the company keeps cutting back. Harrah’s [owner of both casinos] has cut our 401(k) match, increased our benefit costs and laid off our fellow workers.

The New Jersey State AFL-CIO has called on union members to rally in support of the casino workers this Friday. State federation President Charles Wowkanech and Secretary-Treasurer Laurel Brennan said in an e-mail to local unions:

Contract negotiations for the UAW in Atlantic City have gone beyond the point of unacceptable. This contract fight plainly shows the extent certain employers are willing to go in order to suppress a worker’s right to a fair contract.

If the Employee Free Choice Act was law, this dispute would have been settled months ago. The legislation provides the mediation and arbitration assistance to help settle a contract when a company and a newly certified union cannot agree on a contract after three months.

Workers at Trump Plaza also are working without a contract. Johanna Moon, a 25-year employee, says the two-year delay in getting a fair deal shows why Employee Free Choice is so important.

All workers need the Employee Free Choice Act. It’s not fair as it is now. Something’s got to change.

Read Moon’s story here.

Harrah’s rakes in some $10.8 billion in annual revenue, yet workers at both casinos make as little as $4.50 an hour on top of tips, according to the union.

Harrah’s has negotiated at Caesars for only 50 out of 655 available days and has refused to negotiate at Bally’s. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) found that Bally’s broke federal labor law by refusing to bargain. An enforcement order requested by the NLRB is pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Says UAW Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Bunn, who directs the union’s Technical, Office and Professional Organizing Department:

UAW members negotiate successfully with all kinds of employers—including casinos—and we know how to get the job done. The reason we haven’t succeeded in Atlantic City is plain and simple: Management either won’t come to the table, or they engage in stalling tactics once they get there.

Workers at Bally’s and Caesars are sending a very strong message with their votes: We’ve had enough. We voted for a union two years ago, we want our votes to mean something and we’re ready to take action to make it happen.

More than 8,000 gaming industry workers are members of the UAW in Atlantic City, Connecticut, Indiana, Michigan and Rhode Island.

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