Hundreds of casino employees demand health insurance amid COVID-19

ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey (WPVI) -- Friday, around 500 Atlantic City casino workers got in their cars and drove around the Borgata and Harrah's as part of a car caravan.

Demanding that MGM and Caesars continue to provide them with health insurance, as casinos have yet to open due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The service employees are represented by Unite Here Local 54, and many work for Borgata which is owned by MGM Resorts International, and Harrahs owned by Caesars Entertainment Corporation, demanding they continue to provide them with health insurance, as casinos have no definite opening date.

"These two companies are the leaders in this industry, and they need to stand up and lead," said Donna DeCaprio, the financial secretary-treasurer of Unite Here local 54.

Front-line casino employees have been out of work for about three months. These employees include housekeepers, bartenders, cocktail servers, cooks, bellmen, doormen and other service workers in the casinos.

"We feel like nobody feels our need, nobody cares about us," said Mario Guzman, a food server at Borgata.

According to the union that represents these workers, Unite Here Local 54, 10,000 union casino workers were laid off as a result of COVID-19 with minimal closure pay.

Their union health fund extended its health insurance through the end of June. As July approaches, these union workers don't know if they will continue to have health insurance from July through December.

"There's urgency to this matter, and that's why we are standing up now, and making our voices heard, because July will be too late," said DeCaprio.

Some casinos are aiming to re-open around July 4, however, Unite Here said more than 26,000 workers will remain unemployed because there won't be as many customers.

Paying their health insurance is not an option for many. "Our average rate of pay is about $12.50 per hour," said DeCaprio.

Many of the service workers rely heavily on tips and say they want to go back to work and safely interact with customers.

"We need to feel safe because we deal with customers, we are the front line employees," said Mineli Polanco, a waitress on the floor of Borgata.

Part of the car caravan included the children of the front line casino workers, upset their family's health insurance is in jeopardy.

"It breaks my heart to see my kids, just think about it, I got a two-year-old, if he gets sick what am I going to do without health benefits, without a job," said Guzman.

MGM Resorts International released a statement to Action News which said, "We are working with the leaders of UNITE HERE to reach an agreement regarding health coverage."

Action News has reached out to Harrah's and has yet to hear back.
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