Casino union: Casino union members stage traffic sit-in
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Atlantic City’s main casino workers’ union took its battle with billionaire investor Carl Icahn to a new level Wednesday, calling him “a malignancy that needs to be cut out,” and blocking traffic in front of the casino Icahn is acquiring and where employee health care and pension plans have been eliminated.
Local 54 of the Unite-HERE union says 60 to 70 of its members sat down in the street outside the Taj Mahal casino and allowed police to arrest them as part of a civil disobedience protest against Icahn.
“We’re here to stand up to the biggest bully in the New Jersey casino industry, Carl Icahn,” union President Bob McDevitt told The Associated Press. “He’s a malignancy that needs to be cut out from the Atlantic City casino industry.”
Icahn responded by saying the union cares more about collecting fees for its health insurance plan than protecting its members’ jobs, and repeated his contention that costly union work rules contributed to the closure of three of the four Atlantic City casinos that went belly-up last year.
“It’s absurd that instead of working to improve Atlantic City at a time when the city is down on its luck, this union spends time, effort and money to purposefully destroy one of the few remaining employers in town,” Icahn told The AP. “I’m baffled by how they don’t see that their destructive efforts may well result in 3,000 less jobs.”
He said that even with the savings from the cuts, the casino is still losing “millions every month.”
The union objects to the elimination of health insurance and pension coverage by a Delaware bankruptcy judge last October. The bankruptcy judge also allowed the Taj Mahal’s parent company, Trump Entertainment Resorts, to unilaterally impose new work rules including increasing performance quotas for room cleaners, using more outsourcing and eliminating paid lunch breaks.
Icahn, who also owns Atlantic City’s Tropicana casino, has promised to close the casino and end the jobs of its nearly 3,000 workers if an appeals panel reinstates the benefits, calling them unaffordable in the current economic climate in Atlantic City.
The union’s demonstration outside the casino Wednesday evening was its ninth public protest against Icahn over the benefit cuts since last year.
Union officials said before the protest that those to be arrested will be removed from the road by police who will affix plastic handcuffs to their hands, bring them to police headquarters and issue them summonses to appear in municipal court before being released.
Associated Press writer Bruce Shipkowski contributed to this report.
Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC