Still, a final push to see a bill closing the loophole in public health law has been lacking, and this is why the United Auto Workers president, Shawn Fain, is now dead set on snuffing out cigarette smoke from gaming floors.
Mustering Support for Smoke-Free Casinos in New Jersey
He has recently won a pay rise for the union members, as the industry is scurrying to absorb costs, but also retain capable and skilled labor in the post-pandemic period. Shain and the UAW want lawmakers who are backing the proposed anti-smoking bill to make sure they move with it this Thursday during a scheduled hearing.
Casino workers have been the most passionate advocates calling for an end to smoking mandates since the pandemic, fearing for their health, but also because of raising awareness about the pernicious effects of second-hand smoking. Bipartisan support has been available with politicians of all stripes vowing to back the matter.
Even federal government representatives have spoken favorably of the matter, and yet, there seem to be one or two votes short. Fain now wants to see who the holdouts are and go after them it seems. Fain penned a letter in which he insisted that the voices of those suffering the most, casino workers and patrons, must be heard.
The UAW represents three casinos in New Jersey, Tropicana, Bally’s and Caesars, and workers in all three venues want to see tobacco and cigarette products banned as those have been repeatedly and empirically linked to worsening health conditions for workers. Fain’s letters state as much:
“Patrons blow cigarette/tobacco smoke directly into their faces for eight hours, and due to the nature of their work, table dealers are unable to take their eyes away from the table, so they bear through the thick smoke that surrounds their workplace.”
However, the UAW is also not willing to “negotiate” in the sense that there are certain red lines that can be crossed.
For example, an idea to have smoking rooms has been blasted by the UAW, widely echoing fears by employees that this measure would not significantly improve their conditions which are that they need to work while breathing secondhand smoke. Presently 25% of gaming floors allow smoking as an exemption to the state’s Smoke-Free Air Act.
A Complete Ban on What Is Long-Overdue Measure
Meanwhile, there have been such movements all over the country, which are gaining traction and will eventually succeed. New Jersey is not fully opposed to the idea but there is a lingering fear that if the measure is passed right away, then there may be unintended economic damage to the casino sector.
This has been dismissed by supporters of the bill, but even lawmakers who endorse the legislation agree that they may be a few votes short.
Fain’s appeal is strong, but it needs to reach the lawmakers who can cast the decisive vote and not be aimed at those who are already supporting the issue and feel remorseful that they can’t muster that last few votes to seal the deal. Thursday will be a new day to decide the matter during the upcoming Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee hearing.