United Auto Workers Campaign for Smoke-Free Atlantic City Casinos

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The United Auto Workers (UAW) union, which represents table game dealers in Atlantic City casinos, is endorsing efforts to enact state legislation that would prohibit smoking on casino floors. Currently, Atlantic City casinos permit smoking in designated areas, with each casino allowing smoking on up to 25% of its gaming floor.

The UAW, a significant labor organization in the United States, is pushing for these changes to protect its members from secondhand smoke exposure. Shawn Fain, the international president of UAW, emphasized the health risks faced by casino workers. In his statement to lawmakers, Fain highlighted the daily exposure of thousands of UAW members to secondhand smoke.

Thousands of UAW members … are exposed on a daily basis to the toxic harms of secondhand smoking. Patrons blow cigarette/tobacco smoke directly into their faces for eight hours, and due to the nature of their work, table dealers are unable to take their eyes away from the table, so they bear the thick smoke that surrounds their workplace.

Shawn FainInternational President of UAW

Smoking Ban Hampered by Legislative Hurdles

Proposed legislation to eliminate the smoking allowance in brick-and-mortar casinos, as established by the New Jersey Smokefree Air Act of 2006, has been under consideration in the State House since 2021. The bills, Senate Bill 264 and Assembly Bill 2151 have garnered bipartisan support but faced setbacks in the legislative process.

The Senate Health, Human Services, and Senior Citizens Committee did not advance SB264, falling short of the required majority. State Sen. Joseph Vitale, a proponent of the bill, expressed disappointment at the setback. Meanwhile, casinos and their supporters, including Unite Here Local 54, argue that a smoking ban could lead to significant job losses.

Donna DeCaprio, President of Local 54, has expressed concerns, stating in July that a casino smoking prohibition "would be a suicide pact."

Casino Employees behind Grassroots Campaign

Casino employees, including those represented by the UAW, are advocating for a smoke-free environment, citing health risks associated with their jobs. The grassroots coalition Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects (CEASE) has been at the forefront of this movement.

In a statement released this week, CEASE argued that they are the only workers in the state who are “forced to choose between our health and a paycheck”.

Echoing these concerns, UAW's Shawn Fain asserts the importance of workplace safety. "Workers should leave work in the same condition they arrived," he stated, emphasizing the need for protective measures across all workplaces.

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