Sun, Oct 03, 2004 - Page 11 News List

Lawyers forced to flip hamburgers in casino union strike


Front-office executives served drinks, lawyers flipped hamburgers and accountants made beds on Friday after about 10,000 union workers went on strike at seven of Atlantic City's casinos.

Cocktail waitresses, housekeepers, bellhops and other members of the Hotel and Restaurant Employees union walked off the job and hit the picket lines around daybreak, some in the middle of their shifts.

Dealers and others holding gambling-related jobs were not part of the dispute, and the 24-hour casinos remained open, though service was curtailed at some.

Denise Kelly and her boyfriend were drinking beer and playing the slot machines at Bally's Atlantic City at 6am when their cocktail waitress quit mid-shift.

"She says, `This is your last beer because we're going on strike. Bye,'" said Kelly, 31.

The striking workers have been without a contract since their five-year deal expired on Sept. 15. They are demanding a three-year contract, protection against the use of non-union restaurant workers, and casino-funded health care.

"It's something we have to do," said Veronica Lesniak, 44, a banquet server at Bally's who picketed along the Boardwalk.

At the Tropicana Casino and Resort, room service was canceled, while several casinos closed restaurants because they had no one to work in them.

Timothy Wilmott, the US$1.2 million-a-year chief operating officer of Harrah's Entertainment, was pressed into duty serving water to customers at Harrah's Atlantic City.

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