The Tropicana Casino and Resort in Atlantic City is suspending workers who took part in a protest that blocked traffic Friday night near the casino's entrance.

Tropicana president Tony Rodio tells The Associated Press 21 workers were suspended indefinitely for allegedly engaging in illegal activity that interfered with the casino's customers.

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Local 54 of the Unite-HERE union conducted what it called civil disobedience resulting in the arrest of 49 of its members after they sat down in the roadway and stopped traffic. The union was protesting the lack of a new contract and the casino's termination of its employee pension plan in favor of cash payments to workers.


Rodio says the casino is trying to determine whether the workers should be fired or not. "This is conduct that got them arrested by the police," he said. "This isn't a free speech issue; they broke the law and interfered with our business and our customers. Frankly, I can't see how they didn't think there would be repercussions from that."


On Friday night, however, Rodio downplayed any affect the demonstration had on the casino.  “Inside the building, you can’t even tell this is going on,” he said as he watched employees being arrested from the curb. “Frankly, I’m embarrassed for them. This is just silly.”

Rodio said the casino is more determined than ever that its contributions to the old pension plan are over.
“There is absolutely zero — and please emphasize the word `zero’ — chance that we are going to stay in that pension plan,” he said.

Rodio burst out laughing when asked if he was concerned the union may eventually call a strike against the Tropicana. “If they strike, in the first day, such a large percentage of them will cross the picket line it won’t even be funny,” he said.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)