Dealers at the Atlantic City Hilton casino are next in line to seek representation by the United Auto Workers.

UAW international representative Jim Moore confirmed yesterday that a majority of Hilton dealers had signed a petition that clears the way for a union vote overseen by the National Labor Relations Board's Philadelphia office. The Hilton is the fifth casino in Atlantic City whose dealers have sought the UAW's representation in recent months. "It's significant in the fact that the men and women in Atlantic City are coming together," said Moore, who works out of the UAW's Philadelphia office. "It's moving. They are mobilizing incredibly."

Caesars, Trump Plaza, Trump Marina and Bally's have already sought the UAW's representation. Two of the four held elections in March - Caesars and Trump Plaza - with each voting overwhelmingly to join the UAW.

Trump Marina dealers will vote Friday; and Bally's dealers, June 2.

There are about 650 dealers at the Hilton, and Moore said they reached 51 percent majority status in seeking an election a few weeks ago but confirmed that it had the required signatures only late this week.

Tony Rodio, president of Resorts Atlantic City and the Atlantic City Hilton casinos, which are owned by Colony Capital L.L.C. of Los Angeles, said he was surprised that the UAW had not reached the Hilton sooner.

Last month, Rodio said he thought management had persuaded employees at his two casinos not to join the UAW. He said at the time that about 170 dealers at the Hilton blamed the UAW for misrepresenting itself and requested revocation of the union cards they had recently signed.

"I'm surprised it took so long for them to get the required representative signatures," he said yesterday. "Included in those signatures were those 170 from dealers that they refused to return."

Rodio said he had met with each Hilton dealer over the last several months for an open dialogue over their concerns.

"We're not fighting it," he said of the pending Hilton election. "We're eager to move forward with the election process.

"I'm confident our employees will make a well-informed decision of what's best for them, and . . . they will not allow a third party to come between them and management," Rodio said.

A climate of mounting uncertainty, from slots competition in Pennsylvania to a recent series of casino ownership changes, has turned this resort's workforce of about 8,000 dealers into fertile ground for union organizers.

Big issues for casino workers, according to the UAW and some of the dealers, are reduced health-care benefits, wage freezes, and the casinos' growing reliance on part-time dealers who have no benefits at all.

"We feel the workers at the Hilton want to join the union just like previous facilities that joined the union," said Joe Ashton, regional director for UAW Region 9, which includes New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York. "We're going to give them that opportunity."

On March 17, Caesars dealers voted, 572-128, in favor of joining the UAW. Two weeks later, Trump Plaza dealers voted by more than 2 to 1 in favor of the UAW.