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Union turning up heat on Revel as sale looms

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Photo by Arun Kristian Das Photo by Arun Kristian Das

By WAYNE PARRY | AP

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) -- The main union representing Atlantic City casino workers is turning up the heat on the non-union Revel Casino Hotel.

The effort is an attempt to save as many jobs as possible if the struggling casino is sold or goes bankrupt again.

Last week, Local 54 of the Unite-HERE union marched down the Boardwalk and into the casino, demanding the right to unionize and have job security if it's sold.

On Wednesday, Revel workers asked the State Investment Council to pressure Revel's largest owner to protect workers' jobs in the event of an ownership change.

The council has hired Chatham Asset Management to invest $300 million worth of state pension funds into various companies. The union wants the council to use that leverage to pressure Revel to guard its employees' jobs.

"I've learned that when you hire someone, and the money is in your pocket, you have all the power," Rob Mayer, a bellman at the casino, told the council during Wednesday's meeting in Trenton. "We're here to ask you to use that power to protect the jobs of me and my co-workers.

"I'll be honest with you: I'm scared about my future," he said. "Every day I go into work, I wonder if this is the day that there will be an announcement of a sale, and I'll be out of a job."

Equality Brown has been a cleaning worker at Revel since the day it opened nearly two years ago.

"I'm a single father, and I took a job at Revel because it seemed like it was going to be a great place to work," he said. "We've been loyal, hard-working employees. Right now, everyone is nervous. Everyone is afraid they'll lose their jobs."

Revel announced last year it is weighing "strategic alternatives," which in the casino industry usually means pursuing a sale or a bankruptcy filing, which would be Revel's second in as many years. Reported suitors for the $2.4 billion casino, which would be expected to sell at a steeply discounted price, include the Seminole Indian tribe of Florida through its Hard Rock franchise, and Caesars Entertainment, which already owns four of Atlantic City's 11 casinos.

Revel did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

Since opening in April 2012, Revel has struggled in the competitive Atlantic City casino market, ranking near the bottom of the city's 11 gambling halls in terms of the amount of money won from gamblers. It filed for bankruptcy less than a year after it opened, shedding vast amounts of debt, but still has not been able to drastically improve its performance.

The union has opposed Revel since before it opened as the city's only non-union casino.

New Jersey state Senate president Steve Sweeney said the investment council should pressure Revel to protect the workers' jobs. Sweeney said he sponsored legislation to provide state financial incentives to the casino when its construction had ground to a halt and it was unable to secure the remaining money it needed.

"It was my legislation that got Revel built," he said. "Then to watch the way they ran it. ... We have to protect those jobs."

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