Tropicana Casino suspends workers in protest

By Wayne Parry

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, June 19 2012 9:34 a.m. MDT

In this April 5, 2012, photo, casino workers stage a protest outside the Tropicana Casino and Resort in Atlantic City, N.J. The Unite-HERE casino workers are protesting the lack of a contract and the termination of employee pension accounts.

Wayne Parry, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — The Tropicana Casino and Resort in Atlantic City is suspending workers who took part in a protest that blocked traffic Friday night near the casino's entrance.

Tropicana president Tony Rodio says 21 workers were suspended indefinitely for engaging in illegal activity that interfered with the casino's customers.

Local 54 of the Unite-HERE union conducted what it called a civil disobedience campaign Friday resulting in the arrest of 49 of its members after they sat down in the roadway and stopped traffic. The union was protesting the lack of a new contract and the casino's termination of its employee pension plan in favor of cash payments to workers.

Rodio says the casino is trying to determine whether the workers should be fired or not.

"The employees that blocked the entrance and engaged in illegal activity have been suspended indefinitely," Rodio told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "We would take the same action if it happened again.

"This is conduct that got them arrested by the police," he said. "This isn't a free speech issue; they broke the law and interfered with our business and our customers. Frankly, I can't see how they didn't think there would be repercussions from that."

The 21 employees represented all the Tropicana workers who were arrested at the protest.

The casino was evaluating their cases on Monday, and Rodio said it is possible the workers could be fired.

"Consider any other business, if you had a disgruntled employee who laid down and blocked the front entrance of your business and wouldn't get up for an hour until he was arrested, how eager would you be to have that employee come back to work for you?" Rodio asked.

The union says its members were exercising their free speech rights on their off hours, and should not have been suspended.

The dispute centers on a protracted contract stalemate between the union and the Tropicana, which is one of only two of Atlantic City's 12 casinos without a current contract with Local 54.

Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC

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