Trump Entertainment President Robert Griffin Blames Union Workers for Casino’s Closing
Controversy concerning the impending closure of Trump Taj Mahal reached a whole new level this week, with protests on one side and pointed fingers on the other. Trump Entertainment President Robert Griffin likened the Trump Taj Mahal to a “sick patient” and put the blame for the casino’s closing on it union workers.
Plans to Close on December 12
The company warned that the casino would close its doors on December 12 if the Union Here 54 did not back down on its contract. Trump Taj Mahal’s executives want the union workers to make sacrifices to keep their jobs. In specific, the employees would have to cancel their health insurance and pension coverage.
Meanwhile, union members have taken to the streets in protests. They have been joined by their fellow casino union workers across Atlantic City. According to local labor laws, if Union Here 54 agreed to eliminate their health care benefits and pension plans, it would automatically mean that every casino worker in the city would lose their benefits, too.
Union Contract Cancelled by Judge
In Delaware bankruptcy court on October 17, the casino got a Delaware judge to cancel the union contract. The union has appealed the decision, but Robert Griffin and his fellow executives want Union Here 54 to drop its appeals–and its demands.
Under such conditions, the stakes are at the highest level between labor and management in the Atlantic City casino industry. The demand by Robert Griffin goes to the heart of the workers’ livelihood, to their families’ very future. Yet if they don’t agree to such conditions, the workers are likely to find themselves without jobs of any kind. It’s the kind of catch-22 situation faced by people in any failing economy.
Loss of Revenues
Atlantic City’s casino industry is in steep decline, due to market saturation, a bad economy, and bad planning by Jersey leaders. In its peak year of 2006, Atlantic City’s casinos collected $5.2 billion in revenues. Since then, revenues have declined each year. In 2013, that number dropped to $2.86 billion–nearly half of what it had been 7 years before.
The 2014 are going to be far lower, though. At the start of 2014, Atlantic City had 12 casinos in operation. By the end of the year, it appears the city will have only 7 casinos still operating. With that in mind, the revenue stream is likely to take a major hit from where it was even a year ago.
Unite Here 54 Protests
In October, hundreds of union workers staged protests in the spirit of civil disobedience preached by Martin Luther King Jr. and Ghandi, at the intersection of Missouri and Arctic Avenues. This caused gridlock in the city, as traffic slowed down to see the commotion and avoid harming pedestrians.
This placed the protests outside the Tropicana, where the demonstrators carried signs that said, “Billionaire Picking Over Our Bones.” This was in reference to Carl Icahn, who owns the Tropicana and in 2010 took control of the Trump Taj Mahal. Protestors explained their dislike of Carl Icahn, who in October offered to give the Trump Taj Mahal $100 million, if Atlantic City gave the ownership hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks. Mayor Don Guardian refused the demand.
Dislike of Carl Icahn Explained
Bina Vashi, a housekeeper at the Trump Taj Mahal, told an AP reporter: “When Trump came out of bankruptcy in 2010, Icahn almost doubled the interest he was charging to 12 percent. The increase meant he made an extra $17 million a year, while I was making less than $17 per hour. Now he is blaming the health insurance that I rely on to keep healthy for Taj’s financial problems. I want politicians to understand that Carl Icahn has a history of stripping workers of their benefits and that they need to stand up to this bully with us.“