ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Union pickets could be going up soon outside the newly opened Revel casino, even as the $2.4 billion month-old resort tries to build its business before a grand opening on Memorial Day weekend.
Three major labor unions, including the Teamsters and the United Auto Workers, announced Monday that they'll press to unionize workers at Atlantic City's newest casino.
The unions are joining with Local 54 of the Unite HERE union to start a unionization drive at Revel, whose dealers, hotel workers, beverage servers and others are not represented by a union.
Local 54 has repeatedly clashed with Revel over tax subsidies that the casino has received, as well as four or five-year term limits it has imposed on many customer service jobs.
Revel, which opened earlier this month, is Atlantic City's 12th casino. It has reached pacts with some other unions.
"Revel wants to open a non-union casino in the midst of a union town, and destroy the standard of living that generations of workers have walked picket lines and gone on strike to achieve," said Bob McDevitt, president of Local 54. "That is unacceptable and impossible for us to ignore."
The casino said it is working on a proposal to let its workers decide whether they want to join a union.
"Revel has received a proposal from the three unions to hand Revel professionals over to these unions without an election," it said in a statement. "Such a proposal is hardly fair to Revel's professionals. We feel strongly that we need a progressive, non-adversarial approach that would take our professionals into account first and foremost by making sure that they would have a truly fast and easy way of deciding whether or not they wanted to be represented by any union. Revel's approach would guarantee Revel professionals an un-coerced freedom of choice."
Spokeswoman Maureen Siman said the casino cannot yet discuss the details of its planned proposal.
McDevitt said pickets and other demonstrations outside Revel are a real possibility.
"How much disruption there is depends on whether Revel is willing to participate in a cooperative relationship with the unions like all the other casinos in Atlantic City do, or whether they want to have a fight to the death," he said. "We don't picket our friends."
Revel has signed a memorandum of understanding with skilled tradesmen including carpenters, painters and operating engineers. But McDevitt said that agreement covers only about 100 workers out of 5,500 Revel employees.
The unions are also particularly angry over Revel's first-of-its kind policy limiting workers in jobs including dealers, beverage servers and bartenders to no more than four or five years before having to reapply for their jobs. The casino says the rule is needed to prevent workers from becoming burned out and unresponsive to customer needs.
The UAW has been organizing dealers in Atlantic City for the past four years. It represents dealers at four Atlantic City casinos — Trump Plaza, the Tropicana Casino and Resort, Bally's Atlantic City and Caesars Atlantic City.
"It is appalling that Revel has taken hundreds of millions of dollars in state assistance, and then it turns around and institutes anti-worker policies," said Scott Adams, director of the UAW's Region 9 unit that includes Atlantic City. "That is a slap in the face to workers in this heavily unionized region."
Marcus King, president of Teamsters Local 331 in Atlantic City, promised his union will do everything it can to fully unionize Revel.
"Revel's policies of term-limiting service employees and huge use of part-time workers are a direct attack on the labor movement," he said. "We are going to use all the tools available to us to let people know Revel is out of bounds."
The union move comes while Revel is in its so-called preview period leading up to its grand opening over Memorial Day weekend. The luxury resort is being counted on to help revive the sagging fortunes of Atlantic City, which recently lost its rank as the nation's second-largest gambling market to Pennsylvania. -- (AP)