New York’s commercial casinos are still closed by order of the governor and employees have had enough. A group of casino workers have planned a rally for Thursday morning outside the state Capitol Building in Albany to protest for their right to get back to their jobs.

The casinos closed in mid-March, as did every other casino in the United States, because of the coronavirus. As a result, about 5,200 workers found themselves sitting at home. New York was the hardest state in the country early on in the pandemic, though it has opened up some of its economy because its COVID-19 numbers have plunged. Governor Andrew Cuomo, however, has refused to allow commercial casinos to reopen because of “density, the likelihood of compliance and the essential nature of the business.”

To put more words in the governor’s mouth, casinos are places where way too many people congregate and Cuomo does not believe it is possible that everyone will follow safety protocols.

But those leading the rally beg to differ on Cuomo’s “essential” argument. They believe that they should be considered essential workers.

“We need to work,” Valerie McIntyre said. “We don’t want to keep collecting your unemployment. Let us earn what we deserve. We are ready to go back to work.”

It seems pretty clear that McIntyre and her cohorts, Greg Mallette and Robin Torr, are confusing “essential workers” with “essential to the workers.” There is no doubt that their jobs are essential to them. It is terrible that so many are out of work right now, but casinos and thus casino workers are far from essential.

Aside from the employment of the casino staff, the casinos certainly provide much needed tax revenue to local municipalities and the state. And local vendors depend on the venues to provide their services. But in a pandemic, one in which over 170,000 have died in the U.S., casinos are way down the list of businesses that absolutely must open.

As Governor Cuomo said, “you don’t need a casino to maintain survival.”

One argument the rally leaders do have is that Cuomo announced on Friday that bowling alleys could reopen and guidance will be given to gyms on how they can reopen. If those facilities can reopen, casinos might have an argument. And even if not, it is probably a sign that casinos might be back soon.

Understandably, one thing that has upset the New York casino employees, aside from the fact that much of the county is “open for business,” is that they feel they are in the dark about what is going on.

“When you are putting us in a position where we just have no guidance, we have no idea whatsoever,” Mallette said. “We don’t know if it’s going to be next week, if it’s going to be two weeks or if we are going to get to Oct. 1 and we’re all going to be laid off. That’s the worst part of it.”

McIntyre told The Citizen that everyone attending the rally will be required to wear masks and maintain social distancing.

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