Atlantic City’s busiest weekend of the year looks to be problematic for the Trump Taj Mahal as Sunday marks day three for approximately 1,000 union members on the picket lines after contract negotiations on Thursday failed to produce an agreement that could be recommended to the membership.
Staff including housekeepers, servers, cooks, and bellmen at the Taj Mahal, which through a bankruptcy restructuring plan was taken over by billionaire business magnate Carl Icahn in March of last year, were among those who walked off the job. Not part of the union that is striking is the casino’s dealers and security. The Tropicana, which Icahn also owns, reached an agreement with the union on Thursday afternoon.
In the midst of the picketing fray, guests of the Taj Mahal continued to come and go as managers carried luggage inside the hotel. Management of the property has urged guests to come to the Taj, promising they would be well taken care of. The casino’s general manager, Alan Rivin, said, “Despite the labor action, the Taj Mahal remains open for business and is fully functioning,” and, “We have strike contingency plans in place and are prepared to welcome our guests and continue to provide everyone first-class accommodations and entertainment this weekend and throughout the summer. We expect the strike to have minimal impact on our operations. The place looks great and we have a full slate of entertainment and activities planned for the weekend,” according to the Associated Press.
According to the union, no further contract talks have been scheduled.
In 2014, the company filed for bankruptcy protection and the cost savings it sought were imposed by a federal bankruptcy judge. They included ending pension and health insurance benefits for unionized workers. Workers were given cash stipends by the company to purchase health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, but many of them say the stipend hasn’t been enough to purchase coverage. Icahn said last month that considering the current situation in Atlantic City, the benefits that Taj Mahal workers were receiving are not feasible. In 2014, four of the resort city’s 12 casinos shut down, aided by competition from casinos in neighboring states.
Last month, a challenge by the union attempting to restore the pension and health benefits of the Atlantic City Taj Mahal workers was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court when it let stand previous rulings by lower courts in favor of the former Trump Entertainment Resorts, which was run by Donald Trump, Icahn’s friend, and fellow billionaire. The bitter labor battle began after Trump had already disengaged from the company, with the exception of a deal permitting the use of his name that gave him a 10 percent stake, a stake which was dissolved in bankruptcy court.
Last month, UNITE HERE Local 54 President Bob McDevitt noted that in 2004, a 34-day strike resulted in casinos losing $60 million in revenue.