Casino Workers Gain Safer Workplaces
by James Parks
Casino workers in Atlantic City, N.J., have voted by overwhelming majorities to join the UAW to gain a better life and increase their political strength. The value of joining the union became clear yesterday when Mayor Scott Evans chose the UAW union hall to sign into law a smoking ban, which includes the city’s casinos.
The casino workers spearheaded a drive to ensure their workplaces are safe by pushing for a city ordinance guaranteeing all city casinos are completely smoke-free. City Council members unanimously supported adding casino workers to a measure banning smoking in public places.
The smoking ban, which will go into effect Oct. 15, was supported by the UAW, the New Jersey Group Against Smoking Pollution, the American Cancer Society and other public health organizations.
Al Welenc, a dealer at the Tropicana, says:
CEOs who don’t have to worry about access to affordable health care opposed the smoking ban in casinos all along. I’m just relieved that when UAW members teamed up with public health advocates, we were able to make a positive change.
Joe Ashton, director of UAW Region 9, which includes New Jersey, adds:
Secondhand smoke is a serious occupational hazard for casino workers. Casino workers in Atlantic City organized to protect their health and improve their workplaces—and we’re glad the City Council listened to them and took the necessary action.
When the Council passed the ban, Terry Shindel, a dealer at Caesars, said the ordinance was overdue:
This is exactly why we joined together to form our union. People have been talking about cleaning up the air on the casino floor for years—but now that we’re working together as a union, we’re getting real action.
Casino workers now hope to use the solidarity and strength they showed to resolve the smoking issue to gain first contracts from the casinos. Despite overwhelming votes by workers at four Atlantic City casinos—Caesars, Tropicana, Bally’s and Trump Plaza—in favor of forming a union, management at the four casinos continue to stall and delay negotiations to avoid granting the nearly 4,000 workers a voice at work.
Bargaining is under way at Caesars and Tropicana; the union at Bally’s has just been certified; and Trump Plaza management still is trying to delay certification before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The labor board last week confirmed a June 2007 election victory at Bally’s and certified the UAW as the union chosen by full- and part-time dealers, keno and simulcast workers. The NLRB ruling upheld the Oct. 18, 2007, decision of Administrative Law Judge David Goldman, who dismissed all of Bally’s objections to the election and found the vote to be valid and binding.
Welenc says it’s time for management to bargain:
We voted. The results are in. We’ve got huge majorities in favor of forming our own unions. It’s long past time for the casinos to meet their responsibilities and bargain with us in good faith so we can reach agreements that help our members and help the industry.
Tags: UAW , Casinos , Voice@work , Scott Evans , Atlantic City , National Labor Relations , NLRB , Caesars , Tropicana , Bally’s
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