In today’s news & commentary: Atlantic City workers reach a labor agreement with Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, union benefits extend beyond workers to employers and society, and a July Fourth reminder that election workers are a backbone of our democracy.

Atlantic City casino workers and the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino reached a tentative labor agreement on Saturday. Roughly 1,500 casino workers had been set to strike if a deal to increase worker pay had not been reached by their July 3rd deadline, the Wall Street Journal reported. Union organizers with Unite Here Local 54 said that all unionized workers at the casino will be able to vote on the agreement soon. The deal is the third contract dispute to be resolved on the Atlantic City boardwalk this week: Local 54 also reported agreements with MGM International and Caesars Entertainment Inc. The union represents over 6,000 Atlantic City casino workers across the three agreements, including workers at the Hard Rock, Borgata, Caesars, Harrah’s and Tropicana casinos.

Unions have improved wages and employment conditions for workers for more than a century, and they are well known for their successes. As Sharon detailed in a recent post, “[U.S.] states with the highest union density generally have among the highest minimum wage levels in the country, ensure access to paid sick or family leave and have lower-than-average poverty rates. . . . Put simply, the presence of unions in a state correlates with low-wage workers being economically better able to care for themselves and their families.” But the value of unions extends far beyond workers, writes Emma Sara Hughes, a Lecturer in Human Resource Management at the University of Liverpool, in a recent article for Fast Company. Research shows that the benefits of collective bargaining through unions also reach employers and “extend beyond individual organizations, boosting sectors and even the economy by reducing staff turnover, providing or promoting training and encouraging innovation.” These whole of society benefits, Hughes argues, are an important lens through which to view the recent strike actions of over 40,000 rail workers in the U.K.

Finally, as we celebrate July Fourth, Rebekah Caruthers, an attorney and the Vice President at Fair Elections Center, reminds us that election workers are “one of the backbones” of our democracy. “[W]ithout the tireless effort of hundreds of thousands of election workers around the country,” we would not be able to exercise our freedom to vote. Yet the Jan. 6th committee hearings have shown that election workers continue to face threats, intimidation, and risks from the COVID-19 pandemic. Writing for NBC News, Caruthers encourages readers to stand up for our elections by signing up to serve as poll workers at