Taj Mahal to Stay Open at the Expense of Workers
Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc. has won a vital bankruptcy court approval to terminate its union health care and pension programs, thus allowing it to drastically cut operating costs, keep the Taj Mahal open beyond November 13th and save 3000 jobs.
Federal Bankruptcy Judge, Kevin Gross, has enraged workers and Local 54 of the Unite-HERE union after he gave Trump Entertainment Resorts permission to break its contract, effectively cancelling all its pension and healthcare commitments to its workers.
“The decision today will certainly enrage the workers who have relied on and fought for their health care for three decades” said Bob McDevitt, President of local 54, which has lost its guarantees on wages, pensions and even healthcare. “We intend to continue to fight this both in the courts and in the streets.”
The request by the Taj Mahal’s holding company was just one of many that, it felt, was essential in order to keep the casino’s doors open. It was just one in a list of demands made by the company during bankruptcy hearings with others including the likes of tax breaks and financial bailouts, which are far from being assured.
Union members, after hearing the news regarding loss of their benefits, quickly made plans to picket the casino until next Friday. Valerie McMorris, a 45 year old waitress for the Taj Mahal, who has a 15 year old son on her benefits, has said she is utterly disgusted by the judge’s decision.
“With the stroke of a pen, we’ve gone from middle-class jobs in this city, to working poor,” lamented McMorris. “My co-workers and I are absolutely appalled”.
But as upset as one side may be by the announcement, Robert Griffin, CEO of Trump Entertainment, speaking in a statement said: “We are proud of our efforts to keep the Taj Mahal open, to deliver our loyal customers a continued first-class gaming experience and to have the ability to save 300o jobs in a very difficult Atlantic City economy,” a statement that will no doubt be met with little applause. “We look forward to working with our elected officials. With bipartisan leadership we believe we can take a collective step toward a brighter future in Atlantic City.”
This remark was vehemently disputed by Local 54 President Bob McDevitt who said: “Tropicana’s major owner wants you to believe that the demand to take away workers health insurance is necessary because of the financial situation at the Taj Mahal and in Atlantic City. We believe it has nothing to do with either. He has a long history of eliminating, reducing or freezing worker benefits which sometimes saddles government agencies with the burden of cleaning up the mess”.
Carl Icahn, the billionaire casino mogul, who owns the Taj Mahal’s $286 million debt, has said that he will trade the debit for ownership of the casino as well as an investment of $100 million. However, that investment would be contingent on massive government aid from both Atlantic City as well as the state of New Jersey.
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