Union seeking the first-ever contracts with 3,000 Atlantic City dealers

The United Auto Workers has authorized a strike against Bally’s Atlantic City and Caesars Atlantic City but did not set a strike date. The union also authorized a strike against the Tropicana Casino and Resort.

The UAW is seeking the first-ever union contracts with 3,000 Atlantic City dealers, even though hotel and other service workers have been unionized for decades. In addition to Bally's, Caesars and the Tropicana, they also won a union representation election at Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, but have not yet voted on a strike there.

The union is hopeful deals can be reached without a strike, but insists it is not bluffing.

“Nobody wants a strike, but we’re going to stand up to enforce our rights,” Ed Hendricks, a Caesars slot technician for 15 years, told The Associated Press. “We have negotiated for almost two years, but instead of reaching an agreement, the company keeps cutting back. Harrah’s has cut our 401(k) match, increased our benefit costs and laid off our fellow workers.”

“We take their threats seriously,” said J. Carlos Tolosa, eastern regional president for Las Vegas-based Harrah’s Entertainment, which owns Bally’s and Caesars. “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.”

Harrah’s spokeswoman Alyce Parker said any actual recruitment and hiring would be done “when and if there is a strike.”

Atlantic City is in the third year of a revenue decline that started when the first slots parlor opened in the Philadelphia suburbs in November 2006. Since then, the recession has aggravated the problem, leaving gamblers with less disposable income to risk at the slot machines and table games.

A dealer walkout could further hurt the casinos, and lead to more job losses for dealers if it fails. As of June, there were 3,413 fewer casino jobs in Atlantic City than there were a year ago.