New Orleans Casino Employees Gain COVID-19 Job Protection
Employees that work in the casino sector of New Orleans have won job protections connected to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The past year has not been one where people felt like they had job security. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, many employers had to lay off workers due to the shutdown of businesses or lack of operations. In the hospitality sector, casinos and hotels laid off tens of thousands of people throughout the US as services could not be provided or were limited. In New Orleans, employees have been struggling to feel a sense of security on the job and now, it seems they received some reassurances.
Union workers at the Harrah’s New Orleans have been provided certain measures that protect their positions of employment connected to the pandemic. Contract negotiations finished this week with the casino and Unite Here, the employee union.
The union won an extension of recall rights from 12 months to 24 months. This measure affects furloughed or laid off employees that lost employment during the pandemic. The union sought the extension so that businesses would not replace laid off employees with new workers. Long-time workers could easily be replaced with lower paid individuals with less benefits if the measure was not in place.
The New Orleans chapter of Unite Here has around 2,000 members. Leah Baily of the Local 23 said that for workers in the hospitality field who are laid off, finding a different job results in a pay cut with a new employer of over 11%.
According to Baily, the recall policy requires employers to offer previous employees the position as the business reopens and the industry starts the recovery process. The union was also able to negotiate pay raises for staff members that are tipped and non-tipped. The amount remains unknown.
The new contract also provides 10 paid leave days for employees who are required to quarantine due to exposure to the virus. Employees of the Harrah’s property can also join the health plan of the union. The plan costs less than the one that the casino provides and does not have a deductible.
Louisiana Hit Hard by COVID-19
The gaming industry has been slow to recover since the onset of the pandemic. In Louisiana, the state is dependent on the gaming industry to provide revenues. There are 13 riverboat casinos in the state and only one casino, which is the Harrah’s venue. There are also four racinos in operation.
In 2020, the gaming industry was hit by the virus of course but there were also icy conditions that led to closures along with a record-breaking hurricane season. Overall, the casinos were closed for an extended period of time when you total up all the missed days and it heavily affected the amount of revenues the state was able to bring in.
Even Mardi Gras was canceled, which was another big blow to the region. Without the big festival, the casino in New Orleans as well as riverboat options were unable to see the tourism levels they normally do. In general, Mardi Gras attracts around one million people to the city, and it is a high revenue driver.
Right now, the gambling facilities in the state can only offer services at 50% capacity. This has also led to a sharp decline in revenues. In February, the state reported a more than 28% decrease in earnings. In New Orleans, the earnings that month dropped by more than 34% and the Harrah’s venue was down 40%.
The hope is that tourism will start to pick up again and the state will see heavy traffic from across the US and this will spur the recovery process. This will help the gaming venues to stay in operation which will also provide continual employment for workers of these venues.