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Atlantic City Casino Jobs Threatened

30 August 2004

ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey – As reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer: "Instead of going out to dinner or a movie, Kelly Morrell-Duffy has been stashing away any extra spending money, about $25 to $50 a week, since Memorial Day.ou

"Morrell-Duffy, a single mother, said the cash was to help her and her 12-year-old son get by in the event that her union - Local 54 of the Hotel and Restaurant Employees International Union, which represents 95 percent of hotel and restaurant workers in the city's 12 casinos - decides to strike.

"…While Atlantic City is trying to reinvent itself as a full-service, overnight destination, frontline workers such as Morrell-Duffy say they are facing the biggest threat to their livelihoods since the first casino opened here 26 years ago.

"…The current contract expires on Sept. 15, and the two sides differ on four key issues: subcontracting, health benefits, the term of the contract, and successorship rights. But the main issue inflaming the union is subcontractors, the nonunion employees who work part time at minimum pay with no health benefits. Many are seasonal workers.

"…Union members are increasingly fearful that these workers, whose ranks could swell by the thousands as Atlantic City continues its building spree, could eventually take over their jobs. The union is pushing hard for language in the new contract to prevent casino operators from hiring them.

"…In Atlantic City last week, hundreds of union workers converged at the Convention Center for the start of contract negotiations. Nearby, construction crews were putting the finishing touches on the Quarter, a $275 million retail-dining-entertainment complex owned by the Tropicana Casino Resort.

"…Jerold E. Glassman, the labor lawyer who has represented Atlantic City casino operators at the bargaining table since 1982, said the issue was being misrepresented by the union. He said those who are making an investment in Atlantic City should have the right to choose their own workforces.

"…Glassman said new gambling competition - most recently, Pennsylvania's approval for as many as 61,000 slot machines - and Atlantic City's push to become an overnight resort were forcing operators to trim costs. Labor is their biggest expense…"

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