Atlantic City casino workers struggle with limited capacity inside casinos
Atlantic City’s casinos are still only allowed to operate at 25% capacity. This means that many workers are still out of a job and are now running out of health benefits.
“My husband is working, but it’s not enough,” says Mayra Gonzalez, a line server at Borgata. “I’m collecting unemployment, but it’s not enough. I need to go back to work.”
Gonzalez’s story is much like many other casino workers who lined up on Thursday for a food drive for their benefit. It is the 11th one in Atlantic City since the pandemic began.
"We started doing this back in May and have continued through October and as you can see from the long lines and the cars that continue to come, there's really no end to the need,” Community Food Bank of New Jersey president and CEO Carlos Rodriguez.
The president of Unite Here Local 54 – the union that represents about 10,000 casino workers – says that about 70% of members are back to work, but are working about 50% of the hours that they normally would.
“There’s still a great need here for food and for support,” Robert McDevitt says.
These workers say that one of the biggest problems they're facing currently is the fact that their health care ran out at the end of September. Many of them are now choosing whether to put food on the table or pay almost $800 a month to keep their benefits.
“I know a lot of people like myself have forgone health insurance because it’s simply not affordable,” says Victoria Hillesheim, who was a server at Borgata. “We’re just waiting and hoping for some kind of deal to come through.”
Unite Here Local 54 says that the union is working on a health care deal with both Caesars and MGM, who owns Borgata.
"There's no reason why they can't throw a little bit out at benefits to help people out. A lot of people are day one employees at a lot of casinos,” says Borgata waiter Patrick McGurk.
The food driver is a partnership between the Community Food Bank of New Jersey, the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority and Unite Here Local 54. They say that this was the last food drive for now, but that they hope to help the families near Thanksgiving and Christmas.