For immediate release
November 2, 2004
Casino Workers Achieve Best Contract in History of Gaming Industry
Today, a tentative agreement was reached to end the month-long Atlantic City casino strike. Under the terms of the settlement, casino service workers have achieved the largest collective bargaining gains in the history of the gaming industry nationwide.
Key highlights of the five-year agreement include:
- A 28.3% increase in the total economic package (wages, healthcare & pension contributions) over the life of the agreement;
- A 91% increase in employer healthcare contributions – plus more if needed in the 4th and 5th years of the contract – to continue fully employer paid family healthcare coverage with no paycheck deductions. Employers will also begin paying healthcare contributions on all hours, so Local 54 members will no longer have substantial out-of-pocket costs when taking vacations;
- Protection from subcontracting now and in the future. No Local 54 member can lose their job, hours, wages or seniority from any subcontracting, and Atlantic City’s future growth and expansion will be done with good, middle-class Union jobs;
- Protection of Local 54 members and their Union contract in the event a casino is sold to a new owner;
- Restoration of the ‘step’ system of wage increases that provide significant raises as employees’ years of service grow, and additional employer money added on the top ‘step’ and in bonuses;
- A 51% increase in employer pension contributions over the life of the contract, resulting in one of the best retirement plans for hospitality industry workers in the country;
- Many other contract improvements, including protection for immigrant workers, improvements in leave of absence and promotional language, a voluntary 401K administered by the employer, and a stronger shop steward system.
“Our members have achieved the best contract in the history of Local 54 and in the history of the gaming industry,” said Bob McDevitt, President of UNITE HERE Local 54. “The solidarity and determination of Local 54 members during the strike led to the major improvements in this tentative settlement, as compared to the casino’s final offer before the strike.”
McDevitt continued: “The tentative agreement consists of substantial increases in wages, health and pension contributions. It ensures continued full family healthcare coverage with no payroll deductions for five years. It makes sure none of our jobs will be subcontracted, and that future growth in Atlantic City will be done with good, Union jobs. It protects Local 54 members and their Union contract in the event any casino is sold. And every single striker – with no exceptions – goes back to work at their same job, shift, station and seniority. We said from the beginning our goal was to maintain our standard of living and ensure that middle-class jobs in Atlantic City’s gaming industry were here to stay. Given our starting point, we had thought we needed a three year contract to reach those goals, but we achieved all that and more during the course of this strike.
“The proposal from these casinos before the strike did not protect our free full family healthcare coverage for five years. Now it is protected, because in addition to the 91% increase in employer healthcare payments, this settlement contains a fail-safe binding arbitration system for the 4th and 5th years which guarantees additional employer payments if needed.
“Before the strike, the employers were not willing to make healthcare payments for all hours, which meant that Local 54 members would have to continue large out-of-pocket payments when they go on vacation. Now they won’t have to make vacation self-payments, because the employers will pay healthcare contributions on all paid hours, not just straight-time hours.
“Before the strike, the employer’s proposal would have provided no enforceable protection against subcontracting out the jobs of Local 54 members. Now the jobs of all our members are fully protected, both current employees and those hired in the future. Now there can be no subcontracting of jobs like housekeeping, cleaning and other classifications. For food and beverage outlets, after the subcontracts legally entered into under our previous contract, there can be a total of only two additional restaurant subcontracts in these casinos, one at Resorts and one at Tropicana, and at those casinos we are guaranteed that all Union restaurants will remain open. This means that future restaurant growth in Atlantic City’s casinos will be done with good, middle-class Union jobs.
“Before the strike, the employers proposed to eliminate our wage step progression system, which ensures wage equality because all employees can progress to the top wage rate. This would have caused permanent wage discrimination, with many different wage rates for each classification and no path to equality. This settlement restores our wage step progression system, ensures wage equality, and preserves our Union’s internal fairness to all members.
“Before the strike, these casinos demanded to take away our members’ leave of absence and seniority protections if they have serious illnesses. This settlement fully protects those rights, so no Local 54 member will have to fear losing a job because of serious illness.”
The tentative agreement was overwhelmingly ratified by a 93% majority of Local 54’s rank-and-file negotiating committee and will be voted on by all the strikers this Wednesday.
Over 10,000 housekeepers, cooks, food and beverage servers, buspersons, bartenders, porters, bell and door persons, valet parkers and others struck seven Atlantic City casinos on October 1.