By JoAnne Powers, July 4, 2016
A thousand UNITE HERE Local 54 workers spent their Fourth of July weekend on the picket lines at Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. A strike during the busiest weekend of the year was averted at four other Atlantic City Casinos on the eve of the July 1st strike deadline.
Local 54 spokesperson Ben Begleiter was on the picket lines Friday:
[Ben Begleiter]: “The Workers walked out of the Trump Taj Mahal at 6AM this morning. It’s about a thousand housekeepers, bartenders, cooks, cocktail servers and other service workers, food servers, bellmen, those sort of fixed job classifications. Yesterday we were able to reach tentative agreements with four of the five companies that we had been negotiating with. Fundamentally, the four that we were able to settle contracts with recognized the importance of the workers in their business on this holiday weekend, and at the end of the day the Trump Taj Mahal didn’t do that. The rest of the city has, and they need to come to their senses.”
The workers are fighting to regain benefits taken from them when the company filed for bankruptcy in 2014:
[Ben Begleiter]: "At the Trump Taj Mahl, during a bankruptcy in 2014 the company used the bankruptcy courts to strip workers of their pension, their health insurance and even their paid breaks. They increased workloads, all sorts of things. And so workers at the Taj Mahal have been working without health insurance for about 20 months now. And they feel like enough is enough and the situation needs to change."
The workers are also striking for an increase in wages. The average wage at Trump Taj Majal is less than twelve dollars an hour and has gone up only 80 cents in total over the last dozen years.
[Ben Begleiter]: "The jobs at Trump Taj Mahal and all of the casinos in Atlantic City used to be good middle-class jobs, and through the bankruptcy process, the company has turned those jobs into poverty jobs.”
The union says the last offer from billionaire Taj Mahal owner Carl Icahn’s Icahn Enterprises included only a bare-bones healthcare plan and no reinstatement of the other benefits. No talks are currently scheduled between the company and the union.
[Ben Begleiter]: "We’re ready to talk to the company any time that they’re ready to come forward with a proposal that respects the workers, a realistic proposal that puts them on a path to getting back their health insurance and some of the other things that they’ve lost.”
Begleiter is calling on travelers to support any of Atlantic City’s casinos…except for the Taj Mahal.
[Ben Begleiter]: "We need the support of your listeners who might be coming to Atlantic City, not to come to the Taj Mahal. All of the other casinos are fine, but stay away from the Taj Mahal.”