Union says Tropicana not bargaining in good faith

Atlantic City, New Jersey – The United Auto Workers filed an unfair labor practice charge Monday against the Tropicana Casino and Resort, alleging that interim management is refusing to bargain in good faith while a buyer is sought for the property.

The union is attempting to unionize dealers at all 11 Atlantic City casinos.

The casino’s former owners were stripped of their casino license last December, and the Tropicana is being overseen by a state-appointed trustee until a buyer can be found.

That’s part of the problem: negotiating a contract that would bind the hands of someone who doesn’t yet own the property.

Gary Stein, the retired state Supreme Court Justice who is overseeing the Tropicana, met with union negotiators earlier this year.

„In January 2008 Judge Stein told UAW representatives that he would engage in bargaining but would not reach an agreement because he would not bind a prospective purchaser,“ said Al Welenc, a UAW bargaining team member.

„Even if he’s only running the casino for a limited time, Judge Stein, of all people, should understand he has an obligation to follow the law,“ said Joe Ashton, director of the union’s regional operations. „Federal labor law is very clear: If you come to the table and state up front you have no intent to reach an agreement, that’s bargaining in bad faith, and that’s illegal.“

Stein declined comment, but referred to a statement the casino issued Monday evening that read, „While it is not Tropicana’s desire to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement in the press, Justice Stein instructed the bargaining team to negotiate in good faith to reach a complete contract between Tropicana and the UAW.

„The UAW was advised of that during the very first bargaining session,“ the statement read. „The parties have been meeting on a regular basis and have exchanged proposals and counterproposals and continue to meet in an effort to reach an agreement.“

In a telephone interview, Tropicana President Mark Giannantonio said casino representatives have met two to three times a month with union officials.

„If anyone is far along in talks, it’s us,“ he said. „The judge made it perfectly clear to require that we go forward with the talks in good faith, which we did.“

Giannantonio would not say whether any issues, including non-economic ones, have been settled in talks with the union.

Workers at the Tropicana voted in August 2007 to form a union, as have dealers at three other gambling halls in Atlantic City. But no casino in the city has yet signed a contract with the union.