Atlantic City dealers' union votes to strike Harrah's

Jul 21, 2009 5:10 PM
by Ray Poirier | Ignoring a souring economy and a more than 15 percent decline in business, dealers in Atlantic City voted over the weekend to strike two Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. casinos.

Officials of the United Auto Workers, representing dealers at Bally’s Atlantic City and Caesars Atlantic City, said they are hopeful of getting a contract without striking but insist they are not bluffing.

The union is seeking the first-ever contract for some 3,000 casino dealers.

"Workers at Bally’s and Caesars are sending a very a strong message with their votes," said Elizabeth Bunn, union secretary-treasurer. "We’ve had enough. We voted for a union two years ago, we want our votes to mean something and we’re ready to take action to make it happen."

That was enough to motivate Harrah’s Entertainment executives. They said they were implementing a contingency plan that includes hiring replacement workers for any dealers that go out on strike.

We take their threats seriously," said J. Carlos Tolosa, the company’s eastern regional president.

"There are 14,000 employees in Atlantic City who rely on Harrah’s for their livelihood, and we are not going to let the misguided tactics of the UAW interfere with our guests or the employees who are working hard to keep Atlantic City competitive this summer," he said.

The timing of the strike vote was questioned by some observers.

One former Atlantic City executive, Steve Norton, a gaming consultant who once held an executive position at Resorts Atlantic City, predicted many dealers would cross picket lines if a strike happened.

"You don’t make that kind of threat unless you’re prepared to go through with it," he was quoted as saying. "Any dealer with any intelligence would realize the industry is in horrible shape right now. It would be like signing a death warrant for your job."