For immediate release
June 28, 2016
Strike Captain Training Announced for Wednesday
Atlantic City, NJ—Underpaid Atlantic City casino workers said today that they’re angry by the lack of progress in contract negotiations with Caesars, Bally’s, Harrah’s, Tropicana, and Trump Taj Mahal, and announced an emergency strike captain training tomorrow ahead of their July 1st strike deadline.
On June 16, 96% of casino workers, including housekeepers, bartenders, cooks, cocktail servers and other service workers, voted to strike if a deal for better wages that support families is not reached by July 1.
“It is outrageous that this company has $50 million for bonuses for the top 1%, but won’t agree to raise my wage after all the sacrifices me and my family have made,” said Irma Dominguez, a 24-year housekeeper at Harrah’s. “We shouldn’t have to struggle while casino owners get rich on our work.”
The $2.5 billion casino industry just had its best year in almost a decade, with an operating profit growth of 40% in 2015. But as Atlantic City’s casinos rebound, workers’ pay remains low averaging only $11.74. During the recession, Atlantic City gaming workers gave back to help the industry, agreeing to wage freezes and benefit reductions totaling at least $40 million over the last five years. Many workers, including those with many 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.
Now with the industry on the rebound, casino executives at Caesars Entertainment, which owns Atlantic City’s Caesars, Harrah’s and Bally’s, will be getting up to $50 million in bonuses while dramatically underpaying gaming workers.
“I’ve had almost no raises in a decade, now my company wants us to take another five year pay freeze. If these companies force us to go on strike, I’m ready to walk the picket line to get decent wages to support my family,” said Joann Lardizzone, a 32-year cocktail server at the Tropicana.
More than 100 workers will undergo strike captain training on Wednesday at the union hall. As strike captains, they will be responsible for managing picket lines of thousands of workers along the boardwalk and overseeing daily and weekly schedules of strike activities. Strike captains will also be responsible for connecting fellow members with resources to sustain themselves throughout the strike, like food banks and resource centers to help manage bills.
Workers are assembling thousands of picket signs and amassing tee shirts, hats, bullhorns and other noisemakers. They’ve collected tens of thousands of bottles of water and pallets of snacks to keep workers energized and fueled for what may be a long fight ahead.
“Casino jobs in Atlantic City were historically strong, middle class jobs because the companies worked with us to make sure that we all profited from the success of the casinos. Now, Wall Street billionaires want to keep all the profits for themselves and leave workers with nothing but crumbs,” said Bob McDevitt, President of Local 54. “Workers have said in huge numbers that they’re ready to strike to get fair raises.”
Without health benefits, half of workers at the Trump Taj Mahal, for instance, 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.
55% of the workforce is female; the average age is 49. Many have kids and families at home to support.
More than 6,000 servers and housekeepers are working under expired contracts. They’re members of UNITE HERE, which represents workers throughout the United States and Canada who work in the hotel, gaming, food, service, airport, textile, manufacturing, distribution, laundry and transportation industries. UNITE HERE’s Atlantic City affiliate, Local 54, represents the almost 10,000 casino workers fighting for the future of their families.
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. In 2004 when negotiations stalled, casino workers struck for 34 days.