ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — The UAW has filed an objection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New Jersey, seeking to block a plan by Tropicana Casino and Resorts, Atlantic City to pay more than $1 million in "retention bonuses" to a group of top executives.
The UAW/Atlantic City Dealers Union has been in negotiations with Tropicana management since December 2007, seeking to win a fair contract for the casino's unionized dealers and slot technicians. Tropicana filed for bankruptcy in April and is under the conservatorship of retired New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Gary Stein.
Stein is being paid $600 an hour for his work as conservator. According to the objection filed in court by the union on May 20, he has repeatedly informed members of the UAW/Atlantic City Dealers Union that Tropicana Atlantic City is "not in a position to enter into a [labor] agreement with the UAW."
"Judge Stein is unwilling to commit … to long-term obligations," the objection states, while the company is in bankruptcy and a sale is pending to new owners.
At the same time, management has substantially increased dealers' costs for health insurance benefits and has threatened to lay off approximately 75 dealers in response to Tropicana's financial performance.
"Tropicana has told us they can't commit to a contract, and they might need to lay off some dealers to save money," said Tropicana dealer Al Welenc. "But now they can afford to sign a million-dollar bonus agreement with top executives? That doesn’t make any sense.
"The workers chose casinos as their career, but they have been stifled by management to the point where some workers haven't gotten raises in 13 years. Full-time jobs are almost nonexistent."
Contrary to U.S. bankruptcy law, Tropicana's plan to reward insiders does not require any measures of performance by the executives, who would receive a combined total of more than $1.1 million in cash payments. The executives would receive the money, according to court documents submitted by Tropicana, even if the casino was never sold and the company was forced into liquidation.
"These are corporate insiders trying to line their own pockets at the expense of the rest of us," said Larry Diehlman, a slot technician at Tropicana. "Tropicana's not going to succeed by shoveling money to the same people who sent the company into bankruptcy in the first place. We need a fair contract for the people on the floor who meet the public, maintain our slots and make this place run every day."
A hearing on the company's plan to pay "retention bonuses" -- and the union's objection to it -- will take place before the Bankruptcy Court on May 27.
The UAW represents more than 800 full- and part-time dealers and 23 slot technicians at Tropicana. Eighty percent of dealers voted in favor of UAW representation in August 2007; 90 percent of slot technicians voted to become part of the UAW in October of the same year.
More than 8,000 gaming industry workers are members of the UAW in Atlantic City, Connecticut, Indiana, Michigan and Rhode Island.
The UAW/Atlantic City Dealers' Union objection to Tropicana's "retention bonus" plan can be found here.