Workers want virus protection before casinos reopen
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ – Casino workers across the country want their employers to provide them with protective gear and adopt strict new cleaning and social distancing policies before gambling halls reopen during the coronavirus outbreak.
Union leaders and workers at casinos in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, New Orleans and Biloxi, Mississippi, held a video press conference on Tuesday to demand that all workers be tested at casinos’ expense before returning to work.
The calls came as New Jersey lawmakers proposed what could easily represent tens of millions of dollars in tax breaks and other aid to Atlantic City casinos to help them survive the virus outbreak.
Two of the largest casino worker unions in the country, Unite Here and the Culinary Workers Union, have also established detailed workplace health and safety protocols for each worker.
“I’m afraid of touching dirty beds and towels and catching the virus and making my kids sick,” said Gladis Blanco, room attendant at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.
From the few reopening plans revealed by a small number of casino companies, there appears to be agreement on some of the basics of what workers want. Companies such as Wynn Resorts, Hard Rock and Las Vegas Sands have all endorsed the supply of masks and gloves and embraced social distancing.
But the union’s demands go much further, calling not only for new procedures, but major new commitments of time and resources to implement them. Donald “D” Taylor, national president of Unite Here’s, said workers need to be given enough time to perform the next level of cleaning customers expect.
The American Gaming Association, the casino industry trade group, said specific plans will vary by casino, but “our commitment to the well-being of our team members and guests is consistent across the board. country”.
The demands came as New Jersey lawmakers began considering a pair of bills that would grant millions in tax breaks to Atlantic City’s nine casinos.
“We have to find ways to safely open these casinos and get people back to work,” said State Senate President Steve Sweeney, one of the sponsors. “The economy of this region is totally dependent on tourism, and it will be one of the most difficult to recover.
One provision would allow the state treasurer to lend money to casinos from a tax relief fund that in part helps lower taxes for seniors. The money would be used to make payments in lieu of taxes that casinos owe the city of Atlantic City on May 1 and August 1.
In another provision whose benefits could quickly add up, the annual license fee of $ 500 for each slot machine would be waived for one year from July 1. This would collectively save the casinos nearly $ 9 million.
The Casino Association of New Jersey called for passage of the bill, calling them “critical to ensuring our industry and its thousands of employees have a way forward once we get through this pandemic.”
During Tuesday’s videoconference, casino workers all described their desire to return to work, while fearing they would get sick while doing so.
“My son works in a small hotel. Will he bring home a virus for me? asked Brenda Tucker Cassity, baker at Beau Rivage Casino in Biloxi. “I have elderly parents. I’m afraid I can bring it home to them.
Jeff Payne, a lounge server at Caesars Casino in Atlantic City, said the most important thing is that casino management and employees realize that they are in the same boat.
“The casino industry, built on rewards and levels, needs to understand that we are all equal,” Payne said. “The COVID virus doesn’t care how much you play or what level you are.”
Follow Wayne Parry on http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC