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Dealers marching in Atlantic City

Jun 24, 2008 7:00 PM

by Ray Poirier |

Buoyed by support from New Jersey’s Democratic leadership, including Gov. Jon Corzine and U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, an estimated 3,000 union casino workers rallied in Atlantic City on Saturday demanding that the casinos agree to negotiate contracts.

Nearly a year and one-half ago, the United Auto Workers Union began a drive to unionize the dealers in all 11 of Atlantic City’s casinos. They won elections in four casinos – Caesars, Trump Plaza, Tropicana and Bally’s Atlantic City – but failed at the Trump Marina and the Atlantic City Hilton.

However, that was the easy part, say union officials. Getting the casinos to agree to a signed contract is proving to be the tough part.

"We marched with a united labor movement today, to stand up for democracy in the workplace," said a union official. During the rally, the union members shouted, "Negotiate!"

Although he wasn’t present, presidential candidate Barack Obama’s feeling were represented in a message read by Sen. Menendez. It essentially urged the two sides to come together and reach a fair deal.

"I think the casinos really got our message," said a dealer at Caesars’ Atlantic City. "We voted, we won and now it’s way past time to negotiate a contract that delivers good wages and decent health care."

Casino dealers get most of their income from tips provided by casino customers but with money getting tighter, so are the gamblers, dealers allege. One woman dealer, whose husband is also a dealer, says they have been forced to cut back in their family spending because of a decline in the amount of tips they receive.

Some dealers in Las Vegas have approved unionization but have not been successful in negotiating a contract. Reportedly talks continue at Wynn Resorts and Caesars.