Major Union Promotes Petition Against New Jersey Casino

Connor D. Wolf | Reporter

The largest federation of unions in the country Tuesday promoted a petition in support of workers striking against the Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, N.J.

The AFL-CIO is the largest federation of associated unions in the country at 12 million members. It wielded its vast influence to promote a petition against the Taj Mahal casino. Unite-Here Local 54 launched the petition Friday when its members started striking in response to failed contract talks.

“By adding my name, I pledge to support Trump Taj Mahal casino workers in Atlantic City in their fight to maintain quality jobs with benefits by refusing to patron the casino until workers have a fair contract,” the union petition stated. “In addition, I pledge to honor any worker-called boycotts, strikes and actions in Atlantic City.”

Local 54 and hotel owners were supposed to reach a contract deal by June 30. They negotiated into the night, but were unable to resolve an early decision by the hotel to suspend healthcare and pension benefits. Unionized bartenders, cooks, luggage handlers and other hotel workers walked off the job early in the morning when it became clear a deal would not be reached.

The Taj Mahal casino was owned by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump before going into bankruptcy two years ago. Billionaire investor Carl Icahn bought the casino and invested millions in it.

The new management quickly found itself at odds with Local 54 when it started to slash benefits. The casino has given workers stipends so they could purchase their own healthcare plans, but the union rejected the idea for being inadequate. The union even filed a lawsuit against the casino, but it was defeated in the courts.

A bankruptcy judge claimed in 2014 that without making changes to the agreement the casino would be forced to close, reports the Dow Jones Newswires. The U.S. Supreme Court chose not to hear the case May 31 when the union tried to appeal the lower court loss.

Local 54 has argued a bankruptcy does not allow an employer to cut benefits agreed to under a collective bargaining agreement. Federal law dictates certain provisions, like benefits, must remain in place until a new contract is reached. The casino and union have technically been without a collective bargaining agreement since 2014.

Labor unions have protested against other hotels and casinos with the Donald Trump name. The Culinary Workers Union Local 226 and the Bartenders Union Local 165 have fought to unionize the Trump Las Vegas hotel. The Las Vegas hotel is still owned by the Donald Trump hotel empire, unlike the Atlantic city casino.

Trump has faced significant opposition from the labor movement throughout the election, which the Las Vegas dispute added to. The AFL-CIO declared Trump its loser of the week Feb. 22 over the Las Vegas labor dispute and again Feb. 29 for saying he likes right-to-work.

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