Icahn Blames Union for Closing Trump Taj Mahal

     ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (CN) — After 26 years in operation, the Trump Taj Mahal casino will shut its doors for good due to a prolonged union strike.
     The decision, which was announced Wednesday, marks another in a long list of failing casinos in Atlantic City, which now has only seven functional casinos.
     In a letter to the casino’s soon-to-be unemployed workers on Thursday, billionair investor Carl Icahn accused their union of inciting them to destroy their own jobs by participating in the longest strike by Atlantic City’s main casino workers union.
     Icahn told the workers that officials of Local 54 of the Unite-HERE union knew that the company had made its final offer, but rejected it anyway, knowing a strike would result.
     The union has been on strike since July 1. The central issue has been restoration of health insurance and pension benefits that the previous owners got a bankruptcy court judge to terminate in October 2014.
     Icahn said the company’s final offer to restore health care, albeit at a lower level than what workers at Atlantic City’s other seven casinos, was negotiated with union president Bob McDevitt.
     “Why have they incited you, the union workers at the Taj, to destroy your jobs and your livelihood rather than accept the prior offer that we made at McDevitt’s suggestion?” Icahn wrote.
     The Taj Mahal was opened in 1990 by real estate developer and current Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. In its heyday, it was known as one of the jewels of Atlantic City, but in recent years it has been a money pit.
     Union trouble in particular has plagued the casino, which was one of the most recognizable in Atlantic City and for years its highest grossing. In 2014, Trump Entertainment filed for bankruptcy and threatened to close the Taj Mahal due to a legal challenge to a pension and health care benefits package.
     In late 2014 private investor Icahn, a friend of Trump’s, purchased the Taj in a deal bailing out Trump Entertainment Resorts.
     At the time, the Local 54 of the UniteHere union—which includes bellmen, cooks, housekeepers and other service workers at the Taj Mahal—balked at the bailout, saying Icahn was attempting to back out of a 2014 court order mandating employee pension and health care benefits. Icahn countered that he was attempting to keep more than 3,000 casino workers employed.
     Union-casino relations soured in recent months, and a strike by UniteHere began last month. The strike has lasted for 34 days, the longest in Atlantic City’s history, experts say.
     In a statement, Tropical Entertainment president Tony Rodio said that the union strike is to blame for the closing. “The Taj is losing multi-millions a month, and now with this strike we see no path to profitability,” he reportedly said. “Our directors cannot just allow the Taj to continue burning through tens of millions of dollars when the union has singlehandedly blocked any path to profitability.”
     In a statement union President Bob McDevitt called Icahn’s decision to shutter the Taj “petty” and that Carl Icahn, who owns the casino, was needlessly “burning down” the casino. “For a few million bucks he could have had labor peace and a content workforce, but instead he’d rather slam the door shut on these long-term workers just to punish them and attempt to break their strike,” McDevitt said in the statement.
     The union noted that this is Icahn’s third casino closure in Atlantic City. “If this is the guy Donald Trump wants to be Treasury Secretary of the United States, then the country is doomed,” McDevitt said.
     Rodio said Icahn “saved the Tropicana” and that UniteHere has “single handedly blocked any path to profitability.”
     The Taj Mahal will join Atlantic City casinos Showboat, Trump Plaza, the Atlantic Club, and the giant boondoggle Revel in closing its doors. The shutdown date is scheduled for Sept. 6, according to Rodio. Notices to employees will be sent this coming weekend.

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