Union drive targets casino security guards
By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Published: Saturday, February 24, 2007
Press of Atlantic City
ATLANTIC CITY — They help to protect millions of customers and billions of dollars in revenue each year, but the modestly paid security guards seem to be the Rodney Dangerfields of the casino industry.
“The biggest problem with the security officers is that they don't get the respect,…; said Steve Maritas, a representative of the International Union of the Security, Police and Fire Professionals of America.
Emboldened by a United Auto Workers union drive involving casino dealers, the SPFPA is stepping in to try to organize an estimated 2,000 security guards at Atlantic City's 11 gaming halls, Maritas said.
The union is promising higher pay, better benefits and a more respectful relationship with management if it wins the right to represent the guards. Casino security officers, who do not carry firearms, currently earn about $10 to $13 per hour, according to Maritas.
The SPFPA announced Friday that it filed papers this week with the New Jersey Casino Control Commission to begin the union drive. At the same time, it is collecting union pledge cards that will allow it to petition the National Labor Relations Board for a formal election.
Signed pledge cards typically are needed from at least 30 percent of the employees to trigger an NLRB-sanctioned election. Maritas said the SPFPA's policy is to collect pledge cards from at least 70 percent of the workers before filing an election petition.
“Our organizing win rate is probably one of the best in the country. It is within the top 10 for unions,…; he said in a telephone interview Friday from the union's headquarters in Roseville, Mich.
The SPFPA already represents security officers at the three Detroit casinos and sees Atlantic City as ripe for an organizing campaign. The unionized security guards at the Detroit casinos earn between $15 and $16 an hour, receive bonuses and have better benefits than their nonunion counterparts in Atlantic City, Maritas said.
Efforts to unionize Atlantic City's security guards have failed in the past, but the UAW's push to organize the casino dealers has encouraged the SPFPA to mount a parallel union drive.
“If the UAW is able to organize at least one casino, then these things will snowball,…; Maritas said. “If you hit them, you have to hit them all at once. The UAW is determined to organize all of these casinos. They have a proven track record and we have a proven track record.…;
The UAW has won NLRB approval for a March 17 union election for the dealers at Caesars Atlantic City and is seeking authorization for an election at Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino. At this point, the UAW has not disclosed whether it will target all of the casinos, but Maritas' comments suggest that the UAW hopes to unionize dealers at every property.
Maritas predicted the casinos would spend hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of dollars to fight the unions. He pledged cooperation between the UAW and SPFPA to give the two union drives more clout.
“For some time, several unions have tried to organize Atlantic City, but I believe this time it's going to happen,…; Maritas said.
Anthony Rodio, regional president of the Atlantic City Hilton Casino Resort and sister property Resorts Atlantic City, said in an interview this week that a union would create an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy between the dealers and management.
Joseph A. Corbo Jr., president of the Casino Association of New Jersey, a trade group for the $5.2 billion-per-year gaming industry, declined to comment Friday on the union drives. He said it is up to the individual casinos to handle union issues.
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