Atlantic City Casino Workers Wait Hours for Food, Hope To Be Rehired

Posted on: April 22, 2020, 04:35h. 

Last updated on: April 22, 2020, 04:45h.

An estimated 1,500 laid-off casino employees waited in a two-mile-long line of vehicles in New Jersey Wednesday to receive free food so their families do not go hungry, news reports said.

A box of food and additional produce is carried to a car during a food drive in New Jersey Wednesday for laid-off casino workers. The demand was intense. (Image: News Break)

The Community Food Bank of New Jersey/United Here Local 54 food drive was in Egg Harbor Township’s closed Harbor Square Mall’s parking lot. Those picking up boxes of food were members of Local 54. They mostly have not worked for more than five weeks in Atlantic City casinos.

The gaming properties were closed by the coronavirus pandemic. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy shuttered the casinos on March 16. Some workers were let go before that date.

Not working means I have to worry about money a little bit,” Carol Peace, who was among the ex-gaming workers at the food drive, told “I wonder if we are going to go back to work at the casinos.”

“It is sad that we need this. These are people with jobs. I hope there is a treatment for this soon.”

Massive Demand for Food

The boxed food included about 40 meals, enough to last the unemployed workers two weeks. Included was pasta, rice, canned goods, produce, and dairy products.

They also got some extra fresh produce. A few hundred workers got only produce after the regular boxes reportedly ran out, and some workers were turned away and were directed to local food pantries.

Local 54 President Bob McDevitt told he anticipated the casinos may reopen by mid-May.

From the top of the state to the bottom of the state, the hospitality industry is huge, and the workers are all being affected by this,” McDevitt said. “They exhausted their unemployment because they took partial unemployment over the slower wintertime months, and they qualify for nothing.”

“They are not getting the $600 yet because the state is still processing that, so there are many people who have not gotten a paycheck in almost six weeks.”

Community Food Bank staff member Kimberly Arroyo further told that the “casino industry supports many of our South Jersey residents, and they and non-casino residents went dark on the same day. We are going to offer any assistance that we can.”

The laid-off workers include dealers, cooks, valets, housekeepers, and servers, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

“It’s a little help,” Diego Ramirez, a former bartender at the Borgata, told the newspaper. “I just hope they open quick. But safely.”

As of 11 a.m., food from two 53-foot tractor trailers was distributed. As the massive demand became obvious, a large tractor trailer carrying more food came from the region’s food bank to the mall escorted by a police cruiser, the report said.

The Inquirer further reported that New Jersey’s Atlantic County is projected to be the third-worst region economically in the US because of the pandemic.

Union Will Help Its Members

“We’re here for our members and our community, and we will continue to be there as long as we are needed,” Donna DeCaprio, treasurer and financial secretary for Local 54, told The Press of Atlantic City.

Local 54 has gotten more than 3,600 calls from members about unemployment benefits, the Press reported. More food drives will be offered to union members.