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Atlantic City Council pushes for higher wages for casino workers to avert strike

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Online option for council meeting

When Atlantic City Council resumed meeting in person at City Hall in April, it wisely kept offering an online option to attend virtually.

ATLANTIC CITY — City Council passed a resolution in support of casino workers in their quest for a fair wage, and to "urge casino employers to raise wages and staffing and negotiate in good faith to avert a strike."

The resolution passed unanimously at council's Wednesday night meeting.

The threat of a strike is happening as the city prepares to host the national NAACP convention July 14 to 21.

Councilman Kaleem Shabazz also was expected to hold a news conference in support of casino workers and their union, Unite Here Local 54, at 11 a.m. Thursday in the lobby of City Hall. 

"Our hope is there doesn't have to be a strike," said Shabazz. "Workers need to make livable wages."

He said a strike would be disastrous and make national news.

"We don't need that," said Shabazz, especially with the NAACP convention coming.

As president of the hosting chapter of the NAACP, Shabazz has a lot riding on the success of the national convention.

Members of Local 54 authorized their negotiating committee to call a July 1 strike against Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa and the three casinos owned by Caesars Entertainment — Caesars Atlantic City, Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City and Tropicana Atlantic City — and a July 3 strike against Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City, if new contracts are not in place by then.

The union says it is seeking “significant” wage increases in the next contract to help workers deal with financial setbacks caused by the coronavirus pandemic and rapidly rising prices.

The economic benefits of hosting the NAACP convention are expected to be substantial, according to Larry Sieg, executive director of the agency that works to bring conventions to town, Meet AC.

“Not only is it going to garner national and international media attention, we are looking at over 8,000 attendees — 7,700-plus room nights for hotel properties, $9.3 million in economic impact,” Sieg has said.

The convention will be held at the Atlantic City Convention Center, and there will be events around the city and at the Atlantic City Country Club in Northfield, according to organizers.

Registration will be open to all, not just NAACP members, they said.

Council on Wednesday also passed two ordinances to double fines for littering and dumping debris on city streets and sidewalks, and one to raise the cost of a jitney ride from $2.25 to $2.50.

A detailed discussion of the city's proposed $236 million budget was also expected but did not happen. Some council members talked about holding a special meeting next week to consider the budget and handle other matters.

Ordinance 27 amends existing city law to increase first littering offense fines from $500 to $1,000; and fines for second offenses and subsequent offenses from $1,000 to $2,000, plus community service. After a third offense, punishment could include 90 days in jail for each additional offense.

Councilmen Muhammad Zia and MD Hossain Morshed, who represent the 4th and 5th wards, are sponsors of both anti-littering ordinances.

Both have repeatedly asked the administration to address quality-of-life problems in their wards, such as broken street lighting, poor upkeep of properties, lack of parking for residents, and trash on the streets.

Current fines have not been a deterrent, according to the wording of the ordinance, but it does not say how often tickets have been issued for littering or how much enforcement of existing law has taken place.

A request for information from a police spokesperson about how often littering tickets have been issued was not answered Wednesday.

Ordinance 28 addresses fines for creating obstructions on city streets or sidewalks by dumping trash, building materials and other debris. Upon conviction, the fine would be any amount up to $2,000 for each offense and/or 90 days in jail. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

REPORTER: Michelle Brunetti Post

609-841-2895

mpost@pressofac.com

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Staff Writer

In my first job after college got paid to read the New York Times and summarize articles for an early online data base. First reporting job was with The Daily Record in Parsippany. I have also worked in nonprofits, and have been with The Press since 1990.

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