For immediate release
June 16, 2016
Thousands of Servers, Housekeepers Expected to Authorize July 1st Walk-off – Casinos’ Biggest Holiday Weekend of the Year
While Casinos Reap Highest Operating Profit in a Decade, Average Pay Remains Below Cost of Living at $11.74/hour
Atlantic City, NJ—Casino workers at Caesars, Bally’s, Harrah’s, Tropicana and the Trump Taj Mahal are reporting overwhelming support for striking on July 1st, the industry’s most lucrative holiday weekend of the year, if private equity owners continue to squeeze Atlantic City’s hard working families and hold back the regional economy.
More than 6,000 servers and housekeepers could walk-off at a majority of Atlantic City’s eight casinos. Despite the industry’s 2015 resurgence, where the owners of one casino group doled out up to $50 million in generous executive bonuses, Atlantic City casino owners are refusing to raise wages for their underpaid staff, which earns an average $11.74 / hour, or less than $25,000 per year.
“I work full time but I’m still struggling to make ends meet,” said Rodney Mills, a 42 year-old buffet beverage server at Tropicana who earns $10.98 per hour after more than 24 years of service. “When the casinos were in trouble, I did my part—sacrificing wages and benefits to help the company. But now that the casino is doing well again they’ve forgotten my sacrifice. My family shouldn’t have to stress about whether I’ll be able to pay the rent.”
When the private equity firms that own Atlantic City’s casinos refuse to pay decent wages, it hurts women and families the most. The workforce is predominantly female (55 percent), many of whom have kids and families at home to support. The average age is 49 years old.
Casinos Have Recovered—at the Expense of Atlantic City
Atlantic City’s casinos are back. The $2.5 billion industry just had its best year in almost a decade, with an operating profit growth of 40% in 2015. 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. 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 paying gaming workers poverty wages.
Housekeepers, servers and other casino workers — who earn an average of $11.74 per hour — can’t survive on stagnant wages and have their backs against a wall thanks to billionaire private equity investors who are single-mindedly focused on squeezing out profits at the expense of working people and the economy. Now that the industry is headed in the right direction, it’s time for casino owners to invest in the workers who sacrificed to make the turnaround possible – and put money in the pockets of workers who live and work in Southern New Jersey.
And at a time when New Jersey is facing an ongoing budget crisis, taxpayers are picking up the tab. Without health benefits, half of workers at the Trump Taj Mahal, for instance, rely on 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.
Atlantic City’s Casino Workers Cast Their Ballots
More than 6,000 servers and housekeepers are working under an expired contract. 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.
Beginning at 8:00 am on Thursday, thousands of casino workers streamed in to the famous Boardwalk Hall on the Atlantic City Boardwalk to cast their ballots on authorizing their negotiating committees to call a strike. Voting will take place at 8:00am, 10:00am and 6:00pm sessions. The strike vote won’t be final until after every vote has been tallied, but overwhelmingly, workers expressed conviction and focus as they looked forward to July 1.
“I’ve worked at Bally’s casino in Atlantic City for 8 years. My pay is $9.50 an hour,” said Hement Patel, a houseman at Bally’s. “I work hard every day, but at this rate my family and I will never have the opportunity to move forward. That is why it was so insulting when my company decided to give executives another $50 million in bonus money this year. I deserve a raise too.
Atlantic City Workers Are Fed Up
What’s happening in Atlantic City is not without precedent; many of the Atlantic City casino owners and investors have driven other respected businesses into the ground, choosing investor profits over the health and wellbeing of their employees—and the communities they call home—time and again.
“For decades, thanks to a strong union, casino jobs have lifted workers in to the middle class here in Atlantic City. Now, Wall Street billionaires want to squeeze out every possible dollar for themselves and their investors, leaving workers to scrounge for the crumbs. Today’s vote is a clear sign that the workers of Atlantic City will not allow that to happen,” said Bob McDevitt, President of Local 54.
As they consider going on strike, thousands of gaming workers at Caesar’s, Bally’s, Harrah’s, the Tropicana and the Trump Taj Mahal are taking a stand for a strong economy, and the good jobs that Atlantic City and communities across the country sorely need.