Atlantic City casino workers continue their fight for a smoke-free work environment. Their last battlefield was, unexpectedly, a senator’s office.
Representatives of Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects (CEASE) and United Casino Workers (UAW) were staging a protest against Senator Vince Polistina’s recent change of heart. Polistina, who previously supported the smoke-free movements, recently agreed to allow casinos to seek compromise solutions.
As the temperatures outside plummeted, the activists were invited to discuss the matter inside.
CEASE Says Workers Will Be Forced to “Volunteer”
Under New Jersey’s Smoke-Free Air Act, casinos can dedicate up to a quarter of their indoor gaming space as a smoking area. Opponents of this exemption say that it jeopardizes the health of casino workers who have to bear the smoke for hours at a time. However, casino operators believe that a ban would hurt their business.
While proponents of the ban have pointed out that casinos in other states have banned smoking with little to no effect on their business, AC operators remain adamant that they do not want smoking to go.
As a result, some have proposed compromise measures, such as enclosed smoking spaces. Under this solution, only volunteering workers would be dealing in these spaces. However, CEASE argues that operators would simply force workers to volunteer.
According to CEASE, casinos have previously put a pregnant woman and a person battling cancer at smoking tables.
Polistina Would Still Vote in Favor of Banning Smoking
Polistina told the activists that he agreed with them and that New Jersey should move on from indoor smoking. However, he had to change his stance because of politics, noting that the South Jersey Democratic delegation lost seats recently, making the fight for a smoking ban an uphill battle.
In addition, Polistina pointed out that Unite Here Local 54, another union representing casino staff, opposes the ban as it also believes that it would cause patrons to go elsewhere. Local 54 represents hospitality sector workers and has many more members than UAW, giving it a lot of leverage when it comes to such matters.
Despite that, Senator Polistina promised to vote in favor of a casino smoking ban if such a measure comes up for a vote in the Senate.