ATLANTIC CITY — Workers at five Atlantic City casinos have ratified new contracts giving them significant raises, and are now turning their attention to the two that have yet to settle, their union said Tuesday.

Officials with Local 54 of the Unite Here union said 99% of workers who voted in ratification elections Monday approved the new pacts, under which housekeeping employees will immediately see their hourly salary increased to $18, up from varying levels at different casinos.

Their pay will increase to $22 per hour at the end of the four-year contract.

“It's hard to sell a housekeeping job at $16 an hour,” said union president Bob McDevitt. “It's a lot easier to sell one at $20 or $22 an hour.”

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“Casino workers have needed raises for a long time,” added Dave Dorfman, cook at Harrah’s and member of the worker negotiating committee. “Now there is an easier way forward for us, and the money will go a long way towards affording my daily expenses. Next, we need to make sure that Resorts and Golden Nugget workers don’t get left behind.”

The union plans to vote on July 19 on whether to authorize a strike at those two casinos if new deals are not reached by then.

McDevitt said the union has not yet negotiated with Resorts or Golden Nugget. Executives at both those casinos declined to comment Tuesday.

McDevitt said the strike authorization vote is a way to prepare for the possibility that a work stoppage may be needed.

“We don't want to be in the last weeks of summer and staring at Labor Day weekend without a new contract,” he said.

In addition to raises, the agreements maintain fully-funded family health care and pension benefits, language that protects jobs and increases work opportunities, and new technology protections, the union said.

The union reached agreements on new contracts shortly before early July strike deadlines with the Borgata, Caesars, Harrah's, Tropicana and Hard Rock. Two other casinos, Bally's and the Ocean Casino Resort, agreed to so-called “me-too” deals, committing themselves to adopt the terms of contracts reached by some of the larger properties in the city.

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These are the best hiking spots in New Jersey

A trip to New Jersey doesn't have to be all about the beach. Our state has some incredible trails, waterfalls, and lakes to enjoy.

From the Pine Barrens to the Appalachian Trail to the hidden gems of New Jersey, you have plenty of options for a great hike. Hiking is such a great way to spend time outdoors and enjoy nature, plus it's a great workout.

Before you go out on the trails and explore some of our listeners' suggestions, I have some tips on hiking etiquette from the American Hiking Society.

If you are going downhill and run into an uphill hiker, step to the side and give the uphill hiker space. A hiker going uphill has the right of way unless they stop to catch their breath.

Always stay on the trail, you may see side paths, unless they are marked as an official trail, steer clear of them. By going off-trail you may cause damage to the ecosystems around the trail, the plants, and wildlife that live there.

You also do not want to disturb the wildlife you encounter, just keep your distance from the wildlife and continue hiking.

Bicyclists should yield to hikers and horses. Hikers should also yield to horses, but I’m not sure how many horses you will encounter on the trails in New Jersey.
If you are thinking of bringing your dog on your hike, they should be leashed, and make sure to clean up all pet waste.

Lastly, be mindful of the weather, if the trail is too muddy, it's probably best to save your hike for another day.

I asked our listeners for their suggestions of the best hiking spots in New Jersey, check out their suggestions: