New Orleans Casino Workers Win Pandemic-Related Job Protections

Posted on: April 7, 2021, 03:42h. 

Last updated on: April 8, 2021, 05:44h.

Union workers at Harrah’s New Orleans Hotel and Casino have won several job security measures shielding them from COVID-19 fallout, according to a news report.

Harrah's New Orleans Hotel and Casino
The Harrah’s logo helps illuminate an entrance at the New Orleans hotel-casino. This is the only land-based casino in Louisiana. (Image: Eater New Orleans)

In contract negotiations completed this week, the Unite Here union won an extension of recall rights for hospitality workers furloughed or laid off during the pandemic, according to The recall right has been extended from 12 months to 24 months.

Hospitality unions have sought the extension to keep businesses from replacing laid off, longtime workers with lower-paid employees who receive fewer benefits, according to the newspaper website.

Leah Baily, of Unite Here Local 23, said laid off hospitality workers who find a different job make 11.8 percent less with new employers. The New Orleans chapter of Unite Here has about 2,000 members. 

Recall policies require employers to offer to rehire their previous employees first as workplaces reopen and the industry recovers,” Baily said.

The union also won pay raises for tipped and non-tipped staff. Baily would not specify the pay raise amount.

In addition, the contract provides 10 paid leave days for employees required to quarantine because of possible COVID-19 exposure.

Workers at the hotel-casino now can join the Unite Here health plan. This plan is less expensive than the one Harrah’s offers and has no deductible, the newspaper website reported.

Caesars Entertainment has announced it will rebrand the resort under the Caesars name at an undetermined future date.

Tourism Slow to Recover

The gaming industry has struggled in tourism-dependent Louisiana since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020. 

Louisiana is home to 13 riverboat casinos, one land-based casino in New Orleans, and four racinos. A record hurricane season along the Louisiana Gulf Coast last year, coupled with icy conditions during a frigid February this year, led to temporary casino closures across the state. 

Hazardous weather conditions and COVID-19 concerns also clobbered the Louisiana tourism industry, even resulting in the cancellation this February of Mardi Gras parades. Mardi Gras typically attracts more than 1 million people to New Orleans alone.

Because of coronavirus safety mandates, the state’s gambling halls are only allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity.  

The impact of these factors has led to a sharp decline in gaming revenue.

In February, gaming revenue was down 28.9 percent statewide, compared to the same month in 2020. Casino revenue dropped by 34.5 percent during that period in New Orleans, including a 40 percent decline at Harrah’s.

Employment Declines in City

The Harrah’s resort in New Orleans is the only unionized casino in Louisiana.  Harrah’s is on Poydras Street, near the Spanish Plaza and Mississippi River.

Unite Here represents employees at other work local sites, including the Hilton Riverside, the city’s largest hotel, and the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.

When hotels, bars, and restaurants were closed in April 2020, employment dropped by 50,000 in New Orleans. 

Even with the vaccine rollout and gradually economic recovery, employment is still 30,000 below pre-pandemic levels in the New Orleans hospitality industry, according to