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Atlantic City Casinos, Local 54 of Unite Here Reach Tentative
5 Year Agreement, Calls for Raises of 28.3% over Five Years
By Jacqueline L. Urgo, The Philadelphia Inquirer
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News 

ATLANTIC CITY - Nov. 2, 2004 - The month-long strike at seven of this city's casinos by their bartenders, housekeepers and other hotel workers was apparently settled last night with the announcement of a tentative agreement.

The deal came after a session that began at noon and ended after 11 p.m. between Local 54 of Unite Here. The agreement ends a contentious strike that began Oct. 1 and included 24-hour-a-day picket lines, disrupted casino operations, and, on several occasions pickets blocking city streets in massive rallies that were long on civil disobedience.

Local 54 president Robert McDevitt last night said that the solidarity and determination of the membership led to the settlement.

"Our members have achieved the best contract in the history of Local 54 and in the history of the gaming industry," McDevitt said.

The union represents 10,000 striking workers who earn $8 to $10 an hour plus tips. The agreement calls for raises of 28.3 percent over five years.

The tentative agreement is for five years, though the union had held out for a three-year deal to try to bring Atlantic City's casinos' contract-expiration date in line line with that of hotel workers in Las Vegas and other cities where gambling is allowed.

Representatives of the seven casinos - the Atlantic City Hilton, Bally's Atlantic City, Caesars Atlantic City, Harrah's Atlantic City, Resorts Atlantic City, Showboat Casino-Hotel and the Tropicana Casino Resort - were unavailable early today.

The agreement will be presented to the membership tomorrow, and the workers are expected to return to work Thursday, said McDevitt, adding that he expects it to pass.

Kelly Morell-Duffy, a single mother who works as a cocktail waitress at the Tropicana, said she was looking forward to going back to work and having a "wonderful Thanksgiving."

"We're very, very happy with the contract," Morell-Duffy said. "We got what we wanted, and we feel that we'll be protected the next five years."

Under the agreement, Local 54 members would also receive:

A 28.3 percent increase in the total "economic package" over five years, which includes boosts in wages and pension contributions.

Continuation of fully funded health care, sparing union members from having to contribute to their insurance through payroll deductions.

Protection for their union when a casino changes ownership.

The agreement also calls for all workers to return to their normal shifts and retain their seniority.

This became an issue in bargaining since, according to the union, several hundred workers crossed the picket and returned to work. The casinos have placed the number at more than 1,000.

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(c) 2004, The Philadelphia Inquirer. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News. For information on republishing this content, contact us at (800) 661-2511 (U.S.), (213) 237-4914 (worldwide), fax (213) 237-6515, or e-mail 

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