Casino workers urged to get food stamps

ATLANTIC CITY — The union representing Atlantic City casino service employees is encouraging workers at Resorts Casino Hotel who took pay cuts last winter to apply for food stamps.

Local 54 of Unite-HERE handed out leaflets Wednesday on the Boardwalk in front of Resorts, offering to help workers file for government food assistance.

“I never, ever thought it could come to this,” said Jean Stewart, who has worked as a housekeeper, cleaning rooms at Resorts for 20 years. The Atlantic City woman said she supports a daughter and three grandchildren on $270.50 a week. On Thursday, she will apply for government aid for the first time.

“I’m going to be standing in line to apply for food stamps after 20 years of being self-sufficient,” she said. “It’s embarrassing and humiliating.

“It took me 20 years to get up to $14.17 an hour, and six months to go down to $9.51 an hour,” she said. “I think it stinks. I feel like an old shoe that’s being thrown away.”

The union’s president, Bob McDevitt, estimated 300 people currently working for Resorts make little enough to qualify for food stamps.

In New Jersey, an individual making $1,670 a month qualifies for the aid . A family of four making $3,400 a month qualifies.

“When casino gaming was approved in New Jersey, it said right there in the law that these had to be good jobs, with benefits,” said McDevitt, adding a casino job has traditionally been a gateway to a solid middle-class existence in Atlantic City. “If the future of Atlantic City will be $9-an-hour jobs after working here 10 to 15 years, then why are we even allowing casinos to have licenses? “

The union criticism surprised co-owner Dennis Gomes, who bought Resorts in December with New York real estate investor Morris Bailey just as the casino — the first in the nation to open outside Nevada — was in danger of shutting down.

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