Trump Taj Mahal owner rejects union’s bid to keep casino open
ATLANTIC CITY -- Billionaire investor Carl Icahn rejected an offer Monday by Atlantic City's main casino workers' union that it says would have saved the struggling Trump Taj Mahal casino.
Through a local official of the Atlantic City casino company he owns, Icahn reaffirmed his plan to close the Taj Mahal on Oct. 10, saying the union has no one but itself to blame for the impending loss of nearly 3,000 jobs.
Local 54 of the Unite-HERE union presented Icahn's management team on Monday with an offer it said would cost only $1.3 million more than the billionaire's last offer, a comparative drop in the bucket in the casino industry. The proposal would have restored health insurance in January for Taj Mahal workers that was terminated in 2014, and would have adopted in September 2017 the same contract terms that the Icahn-owned Tropicana agreed to before the Taj strike began on July 1.
The main issue in the strike is the restoration of health insurance and pension benefits that previous management ended in October 2014, while the casino was in bankruptcy. Icahn took over the casino in March, and was its main lender during the bankruptcy.
"We came up with a proposal that will restore what we have lost, while at the same time giving the company time to rebuild its business," said Peter Battaglini, a bellman at the casino since the day it opened in 1990. "This is a win-win proposal in my book."
Union president Bob McDevitt said he was eager to see whether Icahn was serious about saving the casino "or just wants to punish workers and Atlantic City."
Tony Rodio, president of the Tropicana casino, which Icahn also owns, said Monday's meeting between the union and Taj Mahal management was supposed to be to discuss details of the closing. Rodio oversees the Taj Mahal for Icahn.
"This was not a negotiating session," Rodio said. "As previously announced, the Taj Mahal will close its doors on October 10, 2016. Bob McDevitt and the Taj bargaining committee have no one to blame but themselves for this sad outcome. If McDevitt cared even one iota about the future of the employees he would have allowed them to vote on the proposal we offered five weeks ago based on his recommendations, which we believe could have saved the Taj. But in the end he blindsided us and the employees because closing the Taj served his personal purposes."
About 1,000 housekeepers, food and beverage servers, hotel workers and other union members went on strike July 1 against the Taj Mahal, which refused to reinstate the health care and pension benefits the union wanted to get restored. Instead, the Taj offered a lesser level of benefits for 18 months while the casino rebuilt its business.
Donald Trump, the Republican presidential candidate, opened the Taj Mahal in 1990. He once owned three Atlantic City casinos, but cut most ties with the city by 2009. His final stake in Trump Entertainment Resorts was wiped out in bankruptcy court when Icahn took over in March.
Despite announcing on Aug. 3 that he intends to close Taj Mahal in the fall, Icahn has yet to file a petition with New Jersey gambling regulators asking for permission to do so.
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