APNewsBreak: Union, Golden Nugget OK new contract

February 6, 2012 - 7:45 PM
Atlantic City Casino Union

The Golden Nugget Atlantic City, shown here on Sept. 13, 2011, has reached a tentative deal on a new contract with the main casino workers' union in Atlantic City N.J. The pact was to be voted on by workers from Local 54 of the Unite-HERE union on Feb. 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — The main Atlantic City casino workers union ratified a new contract Monday night with the Golden Nugget Atlantic City.

Workers voted overwhelmingly in favor of the deal. Terms were the same as in contracts reached in recent months with other Atlantic City casinos, calling for modest raises and successfully fighting off management demands that workers contribute for the first time to their pension and health insurance costs.

The three-year contract covers almost 600 cooks, housekeepers, bartenders, cocktail servers and other service workers at the Golden Nugget.

Local 54 of the Unite-HERE casino union now has contracts with eight of Atlantic City's 11 casinos. It does not yet have contracts with the former Atlantic City Hilton, Resorts Casino Hotel and the Tropicana Casino and Resort, which last week declared an impasse in contract talks and said it would implement its own last, best offer with or without union approval.

The Golden Nugget is the former Trump Marina Hotel Casino. Landry's Restaurants bought it in May, changed the name and invested $150 million into the facility, which has been among the worst performing in the city in terms of casino revenues.

"As our transformation nears completion, we are pleased that we were able to come to an agreement," said Tom Pohlman, the Golden Nugget's general manager. "We truly appreciate the union's willingness to work with us during such difficult economic times. We believe our agreement is evidence of our company and the union working together for the benefit of our employees, and our customers. We can now put the negotiations behind us and continue to focus on what is going to make the Golden Nugget a successful, premier resort destination in the Atlantic City market."

Bob McDevitt, president of the 14,000-member union, said the contract is very similar to those approved by the four Caesars Entertainment and the two Trump Entertainment casinos.

"This is the first contract that we have negotiated with the new owners at Golden Nugget," he said. "We're glad to see that Golden Nugget, a new company here in Atlantic City, understands that all Atlantic City casinos have to live up to the promise of good jobs. We look forward to working with Golden Nugget in the future."

Aside from the Tropicana standoff, labor and management have been trying hard in the past year to avoid a repeat of the 2004 strike, which lasted 34 days and badly hurt both sides.

The desire for labor peace stems from the beating Atlantic City has taken over the past five years from increasing competition from casinos in neighboring states, coupled with the continued sluggish economy. In 2006, Atlantic City's casino revenues reached a peak of $5.2 billion; by the end of last year, they had fallen to $3.3 billion.

The Tropicana standoff appears headed for the National Labor Relations Board, where the union plans to file an unfair labor practices charge. McDevitt, the union's president, predicted last week that the union would prevail in such an event, saying it can prove the two sides are not really at an impasse.

The Tropicana wants to leave a national pension plan and instead give the money that would have gone into that fund directly to employees as a cash payment or as contributions to their 401(k) plans.

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Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC