Trump Taj Mahal compares union leader to Joseph Stalin
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Hours before a planned union march against its scheduled closure, Atlantic City's Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort posted notices Wednesday alerting customers of the impending shutdown, and compared the president of its main union to Russian dictator Joseph Stalin.
The casino posted signs on its premises and a notice on its website informing customers it plans to shut down on Dec. 12, and warning them to cash in comps and other incentives by that time.
Wednesday's move came hours before hundreds of Atlantic City casino workers planned to rally against the shutdown and billionaire investor Carl Icahn's role in the process. In a letter sent to the company's 3,000 employees, Trump Entertainment Resorts CEO Bob Griffin accused the union of operating its health fund as a profit center, charging far more than the actual cost of delivering health care. He also compared union president Bob McDevitt to Stalin, accusing him of spreading propaganda.
"By its own admission, over the past five years the Unite Here health care fund has made $140 million in net income, and has increased the value of its equity to almost $300 million!," Griffin wrote. "That is obviously money that should belong to the workers, not to the Unite Here health care fund, which is clearly charging amounts above and beyond the cost of health care. It's despicable that the Union is willing to sacrifice your jobs rather than risking these profits."
Griffin repeated the company's position that the Dec. 12 shutdown could be averted if the union withdraws its appeal of a bankruptcy court order that terminated the union contract and ended employee health insurance and pension plans.
The bankrupt company has been pursuing a long-shot plan to hand itself over to Icahn in return for his canceling $286 million of its debt that he owns. Icahn, who also owns the Tropicana Casino and Resort, would invest $100 million into the Taj Mahal. But that deal is contingent on the company receiving $175 million in state or local tax breaks that have thus far been rejected at every level of government.
Local 54 of the Unite-HERE union said the health plan, which is jointly overseen by the union and other Atlantic City casinos, pays out over $100 million a year to workers in southern New Jersey.
Trump Entertainment Resorts "are the ones that ripped it away from workers at the Taj Mahal," union analyst Ben Begleiter said. "They can write as many silly letters as they want, but the fact remains that workers are marching today because what they did was wrong."
McDevitt said the march is intended to highlight the fact that Icahn can save the Taj Mahal if he truly wants to.
"If he wants to be the hero, he can be," McDevitt said. "If he wants to be the villain, he can be that."
Icahn did not respond to a request for comment.
The Taj Mahal would become the fifth Atlantic City casino to close this year.
Valerie McMorris, a cocktail server at the Taj Mahal, said health insurance is the key to her job. Her husband worked at Revel and lost his job when that casino closed on Sept. 2, and their 15-year-old son relies on his mother's health coverage.
"I want to know why Carl Icahn is basing his decision on whether to keep the Taj Mahal open on whether my family has health insurance," she said. "I make $9 an hour. For $9 an hour and no health care, I can work anywhere, and not have to wear 2-inch heels and a skirt."
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