Atlantic City Casino Workers Grow Increasingly Frustrated with Resort Employers Amid Record Inflation

Atlantic City casino workers are seeking higher wages as inflation continues to lessen the purchasing power of their take-home pay. But with the nine gaming resorts not yet willing to budge on increased compensation, a strike is growing more imminent by the day.

Atlantic City casino workers strike contract
Atlantic City casino workers strike contract
The Atlantic City Boardwalk is bustling with guests, as summer 2022 is underway. Casino workers want higher pay because of crippling inflation that has increased everyday expenses. (Image: The New York Times)

Unite Here Local 54, the casino union supporting some 10,000 workers employed in an array of non-gaming positions inside the resorts, remains engulfed in negotiating new terms for its members. The hospitality workers the trade group represents are becoming increasingly upset over the industry’s apparent hesitation to improve wages.

I was renting a two-bedroom apartment for $800. Now a two-bedroom is $1,500. The $16 an hour we are making here is not enough,” Iris Sanchez, a Caesars housekeeper, told ABC6 Action News.

Members of Unite Here Local 54 voted earlier this month to authorize a strike at any time after July 1 unless a new collective bargaining agreement with higher wages is ratified. With the gaming industry keeping quiet regarding what it’s seeking in the negotiations, it’s difficult to pinpoint where the talks stand.

City Support of Union

Atlantic City’s most powerful leaders have come out in support of the casino workers over the casinos themselves. Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small Sr. this week expressed his belief that the nine resorts should step up and help out their workers at this most challenging time.

“I am throwing my full support behind the union workers as they seek higher wages and the hiring of additional staff during negotiations with their casino employers,” Small said. “Our casinos are an integral part of the lure and charm of this city and the casino workers are the backbone.

“They are workhorses day in and day out. They deserve to be properly compensated,” the mayor added.

Small isn’t alone in being an elected official backing the labor union. Atlantic City Councilor Kaleem Shabazz says the casinos should do everything possible to avoid a strike.

Inflation is pressuring working people. We want the union workers and families to be made whole,” Shabazz stated. “Atlantic City needs a peaceful summer free of strike and uncertainty.”

Casinos Supported by State Bill

Atlantic City casinos were dealt a prosperous hand late last year by the New Jersey Legislature. State lawmakers passed a bill amending the casinos’ payment-in-lieu-of-tax (PILOT) that removes revenue from iGaming and mobile sports betting from the property tax calculation.

The PILOT adjustment will collectively save the casinos $55 million this year, and an estimated $30 million to $65 million annually through the 2026 scheduled expiration of the PILOT program. As he departed office after two decades following a shocking 2021 election defeat, New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D) pushed for the PILOT change on unsubstantiated claims that as many as four Atlantic City casinos could close without such property tax savings.

But financial reports disclosed by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement seemingly contradict Sweeney’s claims. In the first quarter of 2022, the nine casinos reported a gross operating profit of more than $155.6 million on net revenue of nearly $719.8 million.

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