Casino Workers Ratify Contract with Historic Wage Increases by 99%, while Others Prepare for Strike Authorization Vote

Casino Workers say, “we’re not finished until we ALL win the raises we deserve!” 

Atlantic City—While workers at five casinos voted 99% “yes” on Monday to ratify new agreements reached with their employers, the worker negotiating committee at Resorts and Golden Nugget casinos announced a Strike Authorization Vote for July 19.  As their contracts expire, casino workers across the city have been fighting for significant wage increases, better housekeeping workload standards and job protections. More than 6,000 casino workers at Hard Rock, MGM-operated Borgata, and Caesars Entertainment-operated Caesars, Harrah’s, and Tropicana are covered by the newly ratified agreements, with an additional 3,000 workers covered by prior agreements signed at Bally’s and Ocean casinos.

Around 1,000 workers at Resorts and Golden Nugget casinos remain without new agreements with their employers. The worker negotiating committee plans to present the new agreements to their employers, asking them to accept the terms already agreed to by their competitors. They also called for a Strike Authorization Vote to take place on July 19, if their employers do not agree to the new citywide standard of wages and working conditions.

The historic four-year agreements ratified Monday provide for substantial wage increases for all classifications, including both tipped and non-tipped employees, retroactive to June 1. “Casino workers have needed raises for a long time,” said Dave Dorfman, cook at Harrah’s and member of the worker negotiating committee.  “Now there is an easier way forward for us and the money will go a long way towards affording my daily expenses.  Next, we need to make sure that Resorts and Golden Nugget workers don’t get left behind.”

Tipped employees also received substantial wage increases in the new agreements. “I’m so excited about this victory!” said Borgata food server Nikki Schwendeman. “This is a well-deserved raise for servers in our industry, and it’s going to make our lives so much easier over the next couple of years. Now it’s time to make sure workers at Resorts and Golden Nugget win the same.”

In addition to raises, the agreements maintain fully funded family healthcare and pension, language that protects jobs and increases work opportunities, and new technology protections. Improvements to housekeeping workloads are also secured: “Our new contract ensures that hotel rooms at Caesars casinos will automatically be cleaned every day,” said Iris Sanchez, a housekeeper at Caesars for 10 years. “With these new cleaning provisions, I’m proud to say that we can maintain Atlantic City as the world-class destination guests expect and deserve.”

With this positive ratification vote behind them, workers now pivot to ensuring Resorts and Golden Nugget casinos sign the same agreements. “We’re thrilled with what the workers were able to win at the other casinos,” said Chen Chan, who works in the Housekeeping Department at Resorts. “And we’re looking forward to the day when we can ratify the same.”

Contact Rocco Mahoney, [email protected], 609-457-2727

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UNITE HERE Local 54 Atlantic City has been representing hospitality workers in the hospitality industry for over 100 years. Our members work as housekeepers, bartenders, cocktail servers, cooks, bellmen, doormen, and other service jobs in the casinos and hospitality industry of South Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania. With over 10,000 members, Local 54 is the largest private sector union in the region. Local 54 is an affiliate of UNITE HERE, an international labor union that represents 300,000 working people across North America. 

4,500 Atlantic City Casino Workers Reach Tentative Agreement with their Employers

Workers at Borgata, Caesars, Harrah’s and Tropicana avert strike deadline

Atlantic City—Casino Workers at four Atlantic City casinos reached a tentative agreement with their companies late Thursday night, in advance of a July 1 strike deadline. The union’s worker negotiating committee at the MGM-owned Borgata and Caesars Entertainment-owned Caesars, Harrah’s and Tropicana casinos have approved the agreements and will set a date for a ratification vote from the entire membership soon. A strike deadline remains in effect for Hard Rock casino for July 3 and strike pay signup will begin tomorrow at 8am on the Boardwalk in front of the property.

Contact: Bethany Holmes, [email protected], 213-675-0905

Atlantic City Casino Workers Vote 96% “YES” to Strike

After picketing on the Boardwalk for higher wages, workers vote overwhelmingly in favor of strike authorization 

Atlantic City— Yesterday evening at 7:38pm, UNITE HERE Local 54 announced that members from Caesars, Tropicana, Harrah’s, Borgata, and Hard Rock casinos voted 96% “yes” to authorize a strike, if called by the worker negotiating committee. The negotiating committee then set a strike deadline of July 1 if an agreement is not reached with Caesars, Harrah’s, Tropicana, and Borgata, and July 3 for Hard Rock. Workers flooded the Convention Center today between 8am-7pm to cast their ballots with the results revealed at a press conference held shortly after the polls closed and ballots were counted.

Over the years, casino workers have sacrificed wage increases for the health of the industry. Workers have persevered though casino closures, Hurricane Sandy, and a global pandemic. Now, they’re falling behind. As industry’s profits and gaming revenues surpass pre- pandemic levels, wages for Atlantic City’s casino workers have not kept pace.

In a recent UNITE HERE survey of 1,934 casino workers, 61% reported they struggled to pay their rent or mortgage on time in the past year. 32% reported they lacked money for food, and 37% for utilities. Click here to read full report: Atlantic City Casino Workers Need a Raise.

After contracts expired on May 31, workers picketed on the Boardwalk to demand the raises they urgently need and deserve. The vote puts the decision of whether and when to strike in the hands of the worker negotiating committee, which is made up of hundreds of workers from all nine casinos.

“We can’t wait and hope that the companies will do the right thing,” said Nikki Schwendeman, a Borgata Food Server who’s been in the industry for 38 years. “They need to know that we’re serious about winning the raises we deserve. That’s why I joined thousands of other members and voted yes to authorize a strike today.”

Members of the worker negotiating committee are available for interviews. Please call to coordinate. The Press Conference was livestreamed on Facebook and is available on the UNITE HERE Local 54 Facebook page.

Contact: Bethany Holmes, 213-675-0905, [email protected]

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UNITE HERE Local 54 Atlantic City has been representing hospitality workers in the hospitality industry for over 100 years. Our members work as housekeepers, bartenders, cocktail servers, cooks, bellmen, doormen, and other service jobs in the casinos and hospitality industry of South Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania. With over 10,000 members, Local 54 is the largest private sector union in the region. Local 54 is an affiliate of UNITE HERE, an international labor union that represents 300,000 working people across North America.

Trump Taj Mahal Workers: We held the line.

We Held The Line.

For 102 days we held the line against Wall Street’s attack on the American worker.

We held the line for our families, who deserve good quality jobs and healthcare.

We held the line against a billionaire taking from us to line his own pockets.

We held the line for our community because we are proud of the middle-class standard we have fought for in Atlantic City.

We are 18 different languages and nationalities united in one voice: Enough is Enough. We stand up for good jobs, with dignity and respect. And we will not let a Wall Street billionaire take that away.

We held the line, and we will be back.

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UNITE HERE Local 54 Urges Senator Sweeney to run for Governor

(Atlantic City, NJ)—UNITE HERE Local 54 and its President Bob McDevitt today urged State Senator Steve Sweeney to enter the race for Governor.

“Senator Sweeney has been a steadfast advocate for the working people of Atlantic City and the rest of the State of New Jersey. He has consistently advanced commonsense solutions to the problems facing our state. Senator Sweeney believes every worker deserves a living wage, and he has proven time and again that he is unafraid to take on powerful interests to fight for a brighter future for New Jersey’s working families.  He also has a good plan for school funding and is committed to making New Jersey colleges strong and affordable. The middle class in New Jersey needs a champion in the Governor’s office, and Steve Sweeney is the leader who has demonstrated the grit and determination to be that champion, and to make a real difference in the lives of working families throughout the state,” said Bob McDevitt, President of Local 54.

McDevitt continued, “In Atlantic City we know that Senator Sweeney is on our side. When Wall Street wanted to slash and burn wages and benefits, Senator Sweeney was the first elected official to reach out to us and offer his support, and he never wavered in that support.  He marched with us shoulder to shoulder and stood by us on the Boardwalk and in the hallways in Trenton. Senator Sweeney has been the most effective voice in our fight to preserve middle class jobs so we can provide for our families and look forward to a brighter future. He is the kind of Governor New Jersey so desperately needs.”

Representing 10,000 men and women, UNITE HERE Local 54 is the largest casino workers union in the state of New Jersey.

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Striking Casino Workers Tell Congress: Pass Brokaw Act to protect workers from the likes of Carl Icahn

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, September 8, 2016
Contact: Diana Hussein, [email protected], 313-460-3119

Striking Casino Workers Tell Congress:
Pass Brokaw Act to protect workers from the likes of Carl IcahnDC1

(Washington, D.C.)—Three busloads of striking casino workers travelled from the historic Atlantic City Boardwalk to the halls of the Capital today to lobby Congress about the need for Senate Bill 2720, also known as the Brokaw Act, to protect working people from vulture investors like Carl Icahn.

“Carl Icahn came to Atlantic City, sucked $350 million out of Trump casinos, turned our middle-class jobs into poverty jobs and then when we stood up to him, Icahn decided to close our workplace and kick 3,000 people to the curb,” said Charles Baker, a Taj Mahal cook since the day it opened in 1990. “I’m here because I want Congress to pass the Brokaw Act, to stop this from happening to other families.”

The Brokaw Act was named after a small town in Wisconsin that went bankrupt after its primary employer succumbed to pressure from an activist hedge fund and closed most of its paper mills. The bill is designed to curb the ability of self-appointed activists, like Carl Icahn, to secretly amass shares and solicit votes for corporate restructurings that provide windfalls for the activists but often have disastrous consequences for workers, communities, and the companies themselves.

In his long career as a corporate raider and then activist, Carl Icahn has left a trail of layoffs, health benefit cuts, and terminated pension plans. And since 2011, companies he has targeted as an activist have committed almost $110 billion to share buybacks.

In Atlantic City, Icahn has had a hand in the closure of three casinos, putting 4,600 people out of work. Now, he is threatening to close a fourth casino, imperiling the jobs of an additional 3,000 employees.

“I used to be able to provide for my family, now I’m facing the unemployment line all because Carl Icahn wanted to make a few more bucks,” said Marc Scittina, a 26-year Food Server at the Taj.

Since July 1, about 1,000 cooks, bartenders, housekeepers, cocktail servers and other service workers have been on strike at the Trump Taj Mahal. Workers are trying to reenter the middle-class after Icahn used the bankruptcy court to strip them of pay and benefits worth more than 1/3 of their total compensation. Many workers at the Trump Taj Mahal, including those with many years on the job, have seen only $.80 per hour in total raises over the last twelve years. The cost of living in Atlantic City has risen over 25 percent in the same time period.

Housekeepers, servers and other casino workers at the Taj Mahal earn on average less than $12/ hour. A recent union survey revealed half now must rely on taxpayer-subsidized health insurance and a third have no health insurance at all.

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ABOUT UNITE HERE

UNITE HERE represents workers throughout the United States and Canada who work in the hotel, gaming, food, service, airport, textile, manufacturing, distribution, laundry and transportation industries.  Learn more at www.unitehere.org.

Local 54, UNITE HERE’s Atlantic City affiliate, represents almost 10,000 casino workers fighting for the future of their families.

 

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PHOTOS: Global Solidarity for Trump Taj Mahal Strikers!

PRESS RELEASE: Casino workers to Icahn: “Our proposal simply $1.3 million different than yours. We can end this dispute today.”

Contact:
Diana Hussein, [email protected], 313-460-3119
Ben Begleiter, [email protected], 203-668-6676


Casino workers to Icahn: “Our proposal simply $1.3 million different than yours. We can end this dispute today.”

(Atlantic City, NJ)—At negotiations today, workers at the Trump Taj Mahal made a contract proposal that would resolve the ongoing labor dispute at the Trump Taj Mahal. The union proposal costs only $1.3 million more over the next year than the company’s last proposal that was rejected by the workers on June 30.

“We came up with a proposal that will restore what we have lost while at the same time giving the company time to rebuild its business. This is a win-win proposal in my book,” said Peter Battaglini, a 26-year bellman.

The proposal which would cost $1.3 million more than the last proposal Icahn made to the workers includes:

  1. The company will begin paying for the same healthcare workers in the rest of the city receive on January 1, 2017;
  2. The company will immediately restore paid breaks;
  3. Housekeeper work load will immediately return to the industry standard;
  4. Subcontracting protections for workers will be immediately restored;

And, Trump Taj Mahal would agree to implement the Tropicana contract beginning on September 1, 2017.

“This labor dispute has been going on for almost two years. The company has saved about $25 million in labor expenses, but lost between $150 and $200 million in revenues. The proposal we put forward today allows all of us to move forward. Now it’s time to see if this company is interested in moving forward or just wants to punish workers and Atlantic City,” said Bob McDevitt, President of UNITE HERE Local 54.

A recent analysis of revenues at the Trump Taj Mahal shows that the company lost out on at least $150 million in revenues over the course of the labor dispute. The report is available at http://bit.ly/tajreport.

One thousand cooks, housekeepers, bellmen, bartenders, cocktail servers, and other service workers from the Trump Taj Mahal have been on strike since July 1.

Many workers at the Trump Taj Mahal, including those with years on the job, have seen only $.80 in total raises over the last twelve years. The cost of living in Atlantic City has risen over 25 percent in the same time period. Housekeepers, servers and other casino workers at the Taj Mahal earn an average of less than $12/ hour.

As the sole debt-holder between 2010 and 2014, Icahn extracted $350 million from the property, driving it into bankruptcy and then swooping in to take control. He used the bankruptcy proceeding to strip Taj Mahal workers of health benefits, retirement security and even paid breaks.  Overall, he cut worker compensation in wages and benefits by 35%.

Without health benefits, half of workers at the Trump Taj Mahal rely on taxpayer subsidized health insurance. A third have no health insurance at all, putting them at risk of bankruptcy in the event of an illness and forcing taxpayers to pay for visits to the Emergency Room. Some of the workers rely on other public assistance programs, like food stamps.

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REPORT: Icahn’s Costly Vendetta: The Effects of the Labor Dispute at the Taj Mahal

REPORTBANNER2Read the Full Report: Effects of Labor Dispute at Taj Mahal


Icahn’s Costly Vendetta: The Effects of the Labor Dispute at the Taj Mahal

Executive Summary

In October 2014, Carl Icahn, the current owner of the Trump Taj Mahal and the Tropicana, did something at the Trump Taj Mahal that no other casino employer in the modern history of Atlantic City had done—he eliminated health insurance and other benefits for around 1,000 cooks, housekeepers, bartenders, cocktail servers, and other service workers.

Icahn’s unprecedented actions provoked a labor dispute between the casino workers and the billionaire.

This report finds that:

  • In the first quarter of the labor dispute, hotel occupancy DROPPED by 12 percentage points even as the industry INCREASED occupancy by 5 percentage points. The drop in occupancy continued through the present quarter.
  • One way to measure the Trump Taj Mahal’s performance relative to the rest of the industry is by comparing RevPAR (Revenue Per Available Room). In the first half of 2014, the Trump Taj Mahal had RevPAR of almost 60% of the rest of the industry average. In the final three months of 2014, the wheels came off as the Trump Taj Mahal’s RevPAR fell to just 40% of the rest of the industry average, a point from which it has not recovered.
  • If Icahn had not picked a fight with the casino workers, and the Trump Taj Mahal’s RevPAR had remained at 60% of the industry average, it would have translated to about an additional $20 million EACH QUARTER in revenue. In total, between October 2014 and the end of June 2016, the Taj Mahal lost out on over $150 million in revenue.
  • If instead of fighting his employees, Icahn had reinvested in the casino and, starting in the third quarter of 2015, Taj had been able to INCREASE its RevPAR relative to the rest of the industry to75%, it would have meant an additional $65 million in revenue for the Taj Mahal or a total of $215 million.
  • Icahn has chosen to wage a 22-month battle with 1,000 employees that has cost the Taj Mahal an estimated $150 million when the conflict could have been resolved for a few million dollars a year. It is fair to ask whether this is a business decision or if one of the richest men in the world has some axe to grind with employees that make an average of less than $12 per hour.

Read the FULL REPORT here