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Atlantic City Casino Workers Fighting for First Contracts


Atlantic City Casino Workers Fighting for First Contracts

by James Parks, Apr 28, 2008

Aneil Patel and his co-workers at Caesars Atlantic City want a first contract.

Despite overwhelming votes by workers at four Atlantic City casinos in favor of forming a union with UAW, management at the four casinos continue to stall and delay negotiations to avoid granting the nearly 4,000 workers a voice at work.

At a press conference last week, New Jersey State AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech said:

The casino dealers and slot technicians fight to organize and management’s opposition to the workers’ freedom to form a union clearly illustrates that the current system for establishing a union in America is broken and is skewed in favor of employers. It is a system that is in desperate need of reform and thousands of workers in Atlantic City are unfortunately victims of this failed system.

Since March 2007, a majority of casino dealers, dual-rate dealers and other workers at Caesars, Tropicana, Bally’s and Trump Plaza in Atlantic City have voted in favor of UAW representation. Bargaining is under way at Caesars and Tropicana; the union at Bally’s has just been certified; and Trump Plaza is still trying to delay certification before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

Aneil Patel, a dealer at Caesars, says the casinos have a history of not dealing workers a fair hand.

If you look at the history of the casinos, they don’t want to give us anything. Wages are falling, and benefits are falling. If you look at inflation, we don’t keep pace. The base salary, 29 years ago, was $3.75 and now, the starting rate for a dealer is $4. Are you telling me that in 29 years, the cost of living only went up by 25 cents? We are handling the money for the casino. It looks glamorous, but behind the scenes, we can’t even put food on the table.

The workers received good news last week when the NLRB confirmed a June 2007 election victory at Bally’s and certified the UAW as the union chosen by full- and part-time dealers, keno and simulcast workers. The NLRB ruling upheld the Oct. 18, 2007, decision of Administrative Law Judge David Goldman, who dismissed all of Bally’s objections to the election and found the vote to be valid and binding.

The workers are gaining strong backing from elected officials and the community for a fair contract. Atlantic City Mayor Scott Evans, Atlantic and Cape May Counties Central Labor Council President Roy Foster and several members of the state legislature demonstrated their support of the workers by signing a petition defending their right to bargain fair contracts.

Mayor Evans says union jobs are good for the city:

Most workers in our gaming industry are members of labor unions. This has been good for Atlantic City. We are a better place to live when our citizens work under contracts with good wages and good benefits.

Earlier this month, Atlantic City Council members unanimously passed a resolution supporting the casino workers’ right to a fair contract and called on all casinos in Atlantic City “to stop treating gaming workers as second-class citizens, to negotiate fair contracts, and to join us in improving our community.”

Meanwhile, the casino workers are working to insure their workplaces are safe by pushing for a city ordinance that would guarantee all city casinos are completely smoke-free. City Council members unanimously supported adding casino workers to a measure banning smoking in public places.

Terry Shindel, a dealer at Caesars, says the ordinance is overdue:

This is exactly why we joined together to form our union. People have been talking about cleaning up the air on the casino floor for years—but now that we’re working together as a union, we’re getting real action.

The smoking ban, which will go into effect Oct. 15, was supported by the UAW, the New Jersey Group Against Smoking Pollution and other public health organizations.

UAW Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Bunn says the union is “committed to assisting casino workers who want a voice in public policy, just as we assist workers who want a voice on the job through collective bargaining.”

There is a powerful and exciting movement for change among gaming industry workers all across the country, and the UAW is proud to be part of it.

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