CEASE Responds to Local 54 Urging Court to Allow Casinos to Poison Their Members

“No Other Worker is as Directly Affected as Us, the Table Games Dealers”

Local 54 Has Deep Ties to Big Tobacco

April 29, 2024
Contact: ceasesmokingnj@gmail.com

Atlantic City, NJ – Nicole Vitola, co-founder of Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects (CEASE) and a longtime table games dealer at Borgata, released the following statement after Local 54 filed a propaganda-filled motion with the court today seeking to dismiss the lawsuit brought by UAW and CEASE earlier this month: 

“Who knew Local 54 and the Casino Association of New Jersey were the exact same organization? They cite the same misleading ‘study’ – which is based on data from nearly 20 years ago, is irrelevant in today’s economy, and was paid for by the casinos themselves to try to scare legislators. Instead of fighting for the health and safety of workers, Local 54 is battling in a court of law to allow casinos to keep poisoning their members with toxic secondhand smoke. What world are we living in? Local 54 leadership is dramatically out of touch with most of its members, who agree with us that it’s time to protect our lives by ending indoor smoking. No other worker is as directly affected as us, the table games dealers.”

BACKGROUND: Local 54’s Long Ties to Big Tobacco

Tobacco Industry Courted Unite HERE After Losing Fight Over Smokefree Airplanes
“Laws that require smoke-free restaurants and bars are gaining momentum across the United States. In the early 1990s, tobacco industry consultants recommended the industry develop “hospitality industry-related third-party allies” to combat such legislation. A [Tobacco Institute] memo described the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union (HERE) as the largest labor organization of restaurant workers and concluded, “Thus an anti-smoking position developed by HERE, similar to that adopted by the [Association of Flight Attendants], could present a major setback. However, HERE, as an ally in this effort, would be a very powerful voice.” The industry was cautioned to learn from its experience with the flight attendants and court HERE as an ally.” [National Institutes for Health, 3/2005]

Tobacco Industry Courting of Unite HERE Worked
The union repeatedly helped the tobacco industry fight efforts to institute smokefree policies that would protect their members and guests.

  • Local 54 Was a “Founding Member” of Tobacco Giant Philip Morris’ Project to Undermine Smokefree Environments. Local 54 of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union was a founding member of the Hospitality Coalition on Indoor Air Quality (HCIAQ), which sought to undermine smokefree environments in casinos and other hospitality settings to maintain indoor smoking. It was largely made up of industry groups, including Philip Morris USA; the American Gaming Association; National Indian Gaming Association; American Hotel and Motel Association; Nevada Resorts Association (equivalent of Casino Association of New Jersey); and National Licensed Beverage Association. [University of California, San Francisco, 3/16/2001; University of California, San Francisco, 10/23/2001]
    • “Smoke and Odor Can Be Managed Without a Physical Barrier.” One of the principles of Philip Morris’ HCIAQ is the false belief that “smoke and odor can be managed without a physical barrier.” [University of California, San Francisco, 3/16/2001]

Unite HERE Praised a Study That “Attacks the Scientific Basis” of a Proposed OSHA Regulation of Workplace Smoking. The union released a statement in which it “praised the Congressional Research Service report which raises serious questions about the scientific basis for recent OSHA attempts to severely regulate secondhand smoke in the American workplace…We are pleased to have CRS vindicate our view that the proposed OSHA regulations are not supported by scientific study, and that secondhand smoke is not as dangerous as feared…American workers should not lose their jobs to regulations based on faulty scientific data.” [University of California, San Francisco, 11/17/1995)]

Unite HERE Came to Tobacco Industry’s Defense By Opposing FDA Regulation to Fight Teen Smoking. In a letter to the FDA, the union wrote, “The proposed regulations…would have a devastating impact on the tobacco industry.” Further, they wrote, “Not only will thousands of jobs directly related to the tobacco industry be lost, so will tens of thousands of other jobs across the country which are indirectly dependent on the tobacco industry.” [University of California, San Francisco, 10/26/1995]

Unite HERE Fought a Smoking Ban at San Diego Padres and Chargers Stadium, Claimed Attendance Would Drop and Therefore Threaten Jobs. “We strongly oppose the smoking ban currently being considered by the Board of Governors at Jack Murphy Stadium and have endorsed Fans Advocating for Individual Rights (F.A.I.R.) in their efforts to keep local government from legislating smoking policy at the stadium. We believe that decisions regulating smoking in the stadium should be made by stadium tenants…Our primary concern is that, if a smoking ban is enacted in the stadium, attendance at events will decrease and may adversely affect the sale of food and concessions. As a result, jobs may be jeopardized.” [University of California, San Francisco, 10/26/1995]

As They Were Helping Big Tobacco, The Union Said They’d “Lead the Charge to Eliminate” Secondhand Smoke if it “Represented a Lethal Threat.” Yet They Have Not Followed Through on This, Despite Overwhelming Scientific Evidence

  • Unite HERE Said “If Secondhand Smoke Represented a Lethal Threat to Our Members, We Would Lead the Charge to Eliminate It.” “[General President Edward T. Manley] has said many times that ‘certainly if secondhand smoke represented a lethal threat to our members, we would lead the charge to eliminate it.’” [University of California, San Francisco, 11/17/1995]

Casinos with Indoor Smoking “A Nasty Environment to Have to Work In,” Said Local 54 President Bob McDevitt, and “His Members Might Benefit from Cutting Tobacco Smoke in Casinos.” “But casino workers are not deterred. C. Robert McDevitt, the president of Local 54 of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union, which represents servers and bartenders in the city's casinos, said, ‘I'm sure that privately our members are pleased with this suit, because it is a nasty environment to have to work in.' He said that his members might benefit from the suit's goal of cutting tobacco smoke in casinos. Currently only individual workers with a proven ailment can, through the Americans with Disabilities Act, get relief like reassignment to less-smoky areas or the installation of air-cleaning equipment in their work area.” [New York Times, “Workers Challenge Casinos' Role as a Haven for Smokers,” 5/25/1998]




Casino Employees Against Smoking (Harmful) Effects (CEASE) is a group of thousands of casino dealers and other frontline gaming workers that formed after indoor smoking returned on July 4, 2021 in Atlantic City, NJ and has expanded to states around the country. CEASE is fighting to permanently remove smoking from our workplaces. For more information, visit ceasesmoking.org.