A card in the famous Monopoly game, based on the street names of Atlantic City, reads, «Go directly to jail.»
That’s just what this gambling resort’s main casino workers union has in mind.
Nearly 50 casino union workers say they expect to be arrested Friday evening after blocking the entrance to the Tropicana Casino and Resort as part of a protracted contract dispute.
Local 54 of the Unite-HERE union calls the demonstration an act of civil disobedience, and says it will cooperate with police once its members are placed under arrest for blocking traffic.
«They will take the cuffs,» said Bob McDevitt, the union’s president, who said he will be among those who will be arrested.
Following a rally on the Boardwalk, the union members plan to march along the side of the casino onto Pacific Avenue and sit down in the roadway, blocking the main entranceway to the casino-hotel. McDevitt, who has already notified city police of the union’s plans, said officers will direct the union members to leave the roadway, and they will refuse, leading them to be arrested.
Once the union members are placed under arrest, they will cooperate with officers and leave the roadway under their own power without forcing officers to drag or carry them away, McDevitt said.
Tropicana president Tony Rodio said casino staff has contingency plans in place, including having security direct guests to alternate entrances to the casino and parking garage, based on where the union chooses to disrupt traffic.
«This is going to be about 10 minutes of street theater,» he said. Rodio predicted the protest would have «no effect at all» on the casino’s operations Friday night.
The casino has not signed a contract with the union since it expired last September. The main sticking point is the Tropicana’s cancellation of employee pensions in favor of direct cash payments.
The dispute began earlier this year when the Tropicana declared an impasse in contract talks with the union. Both sides have dug in their heels over the casino’s insistence that it will end traditional employee pension plans in favor of making direct cash payments to the workers.
Rodio says that because billionaire Carl Icahn purchased the casino at a bankruptcy sale, he does not have to assume future liabilities for the Tropicana’s portion of a pension fund Rodio says is underfunded by at least $1.3 billion. He says the union wants continued payments to a fund that has been «egregiously mismanaged» and is «at critical status.»
McDevitt says the demonstration is just the first step in what he promises will be an escalating campaign of pressure against the Tropicana if the contract impasse continues.
Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC