Atlantic County?s Republican legislative candidates today reminded members of Local 54 UNITE HERE, the union which represents more than 15,000 casino hotel employees, that the forced shutdown of the casino industry last year ?was a direct result of the failure of Assemblyman Jim Whelan to take any leadership role whatever in trying to prevent it.?
State Sen. James ?Sonny? McCullough and his Assembly running mates, Vince Polistina and John Amodeo, issued their reminder to coincide with today?s candidates? forum sponsored by Local 54.
The candidates also proposed a more aggressive and enhanced marketing program be undertaken by the Atlantic City Convention and Visitors Bureau to respond to the increased competition from gaming venues in surrounding states.
?A strong and vibrant Atlantic City region is linked to an equally strong effort to promote the City as a family vacation destination and tourist spot,? they said. ?A stronger marketing effort is necessary to assure that the casino industry?s competitive edge is maintained. We?ve seen enough layoffs in the industry as a result of declining profits and the situation must be addressed now or we?ll be forever playing catch-up. It is crucial to explore new funding sources for a stepped-up campaign.?
The candidates were sharply critical of Whelan ?who went along with the Camden County power brokers in their struggle with the Governor over the state budget, shutting down the casinos and throwing employees out of work on the busiest weekend of the year.?
?These employees lost $9 million in wages and tips — money which they will never recoup — all because Whelan chose partisan politics over employee well-being,? they said.
?The state budget stalemate was nothing more than a battle between Camden County Democrats and the Governor over political supremacy,? they said. ?By taking the side of the Camden establishment, Whelan turned his back on the hardworking men and women in the hotel industry. His letter of apology some three months later was a transparent effort to escape responsibility for his failure.?
McCullough pledged to work toward legislative approval of his amendment to the Constitution to designate casino employees as essential personnel, guaranteeing they would remain on the job in the event of another government shutdown.
?Despite his promise to protect casino employees, Whelan failed to devise legislation which was constitutionally acceptable and later abandoned the effort altogether,? McCullough said. ?Make no mistake; the prospect of another government shutdown over budgetary issues is a very real one and, without legislative action, casino employees will remain at risk.?
McCullough, Polistina and Amodeo told the members of Local 54 that representing their interests in the Legislature would be a top priority.
?The economic health of this industry and the 45,000 people it employs is absolutely crucial to the entire South Jersey region,? they said. ?We intend to see to it that the Legislature and the Governor understand that.?