What’s Left for Laid-off Casino Workers After AC Closings?
After a brutal year for Atlantic City's casino industry, with four venues closing and 8,000 jobs lost, those who were laid off have gone in different directions.
Bob McDevitt, president of Local 54 of the casino workers union UNITE HERE!, said of those 8,000 jobs lost, about 2,500 were union jobs. He said 25 to 30 percent of the union members who lost jobs have retired, and another third have left the area for employment elsewhere. For those who left, McDevitt said many lacked strong ties to Atlantic City because they didn't own a house or didn't have any connection to the surrounding area, so they went to other places to get work.
Among the remaining laid-off union workers, some have moved to the city's surviving casinos, but with no seniority.
"The downside to that is, those folks who are back in the casino industry, most of them have started at the bottom of the wage rate," McDevitt said, "so it is like starting all over again after 25 or 30 years."
Others are trying for employment with some of AC's new, non-gaming attractions.
"That is not only the future, but was also something that was not even considered 20 or 30 years ago that should have been considered, because it would have made Atlantic City a more multidimensional resort area," McDevitt said.
The UNITE HERE! members are well-qualified, McDevitt said, to take jobs at new water parks and restaurants in the city because of their deep public contact experience.
"You take the water parks situation: There is, as part of the development for the water park at the Atlantic Club, a 900-room hotel there and restaurants," he said. "These are the same jobs that we are eminently qualified for."
And as has been frequently reported, the union president had nothing good to say about the new owner of the Taj Mahal.
"I think that folks should understand that at the Taj Mahal, we are in a fight with the owner, Carl Icahn, and he has stripped away all the benefits from the workers and added workload and taken away some of the pay," McDevitt said. "It is a situation that is very different from any of the other properties in Atlantic City."