|By Emily Previti, The Press of Atlantic
City, Pleasantville, N.J.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Aug. 14, 2012--A lawsuit filed by UNITE HERE Local 54 Monday challenges Atlantic City's claim that local employee benefit laws the union hopes to enact through voter referendum would be permanent
Local 54 filed petitions on June 7 seeking a public vote on two laws. They were rejected because they didn't have enough signatures and would "permanently tie the hands of governing body," City Clerk Rhonda Williams wrote in a June 28 letter.
But in their lawsuit filed in Atlantic County Superior Court, the union claims Williams wrote again July 9 to say Local 54 actually did gather enough valid signatures.
One law would require businesses with 250 or more employees provide certain benefits, including at least 12 days of paid sick and personal time.
The other would ban term limits on jobs, addressing worker reviews planned by Atlantic City's newest casino Revel for many of their front-of-the-house hospitality hires.
The lawsuit filed today challenges Williams' statement about the permanent nature of any voter referendum.
Local 54 lawyers argue that state law allows the governing body to repeal voter-enacted ordinances once three years has elapsed. And in the meantime, the governing body could go back to voters to get the measure repealed, according to state law.
City Council never formally reviewed the ordinances Local 54 wants voters to consider in November.
But Councilman Mo Delgado said the proposed laws seemed like potential overregulation to him. And allowing a citywide vote on them could open the door for "everything to come through refendum."
"Then there would be no need for government," Delgado said Monday night. "We wish (Local 54) luck, we support them. But there are certain things we can and cannot do -- or shouldn't do -- because it's just not good (practice) to pry in others' business."
Other Councilmen were unavailable or deferred Monday to Williams and the Atlantic City Solicitor's office, which did not respond to calls or emails.
The municipal government has twice denied Local 54's past attempts at local voter referenda. Both cases dealt with Revel.
The first pertained to a proposed city loan on Revel's behalf that would have covered $56 million of a $90 million road project three years ago; the second, the $261 million graduated tax refund awarded to Revel in 2011 through the state's Economic Redevelopment and Growth grant program..
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