On June 28, 944 ex-employees of the Trump Taj Mahal received settlement checks as the result of the labor dispute that likely doomed the property. Each employee received a check for $850.76 almost two years after owner Carl Icahn closed the iconic hotel and casino.
Ironically, the disposition of the settlement occurred the very same day that the former Taj re-opened as Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City. In the same space where Mike McD told Johnny Chan he couldn’t remember if he had the hand, there were numerous luminaries smashing guitars together to celebrate the opening.
The checks represent the end of a dispute that began in 2014 when management radically slashed employee benefits. For some, after all this time, the money was more symbolic than remunerative.
“The thing that makes this nice is it’s Carl (Icahn)’s money,” said Keith Fullmer, a former Taj Mahal bartender. “It’s just the idea that we put him out of business and we were, I believe, the first union to stand up to him and win.”
The union, Unite Here Local 54, settled with Trump Entertainment for $1 million. Many of its members, including Fullmer, have subsequently found employment at Hard Rock Atlantic City.
The end of the Taj Mahal was bitter for everyone
On July 1, 2016, roughly 1,000 employees of the Taj Mahal went on strike. The group consisted mostly of cooks, housekeepers, and other customer service personnel.
The employees walked out after Icahn did not restore those benefits lost in 2014. The strike, which affected the crucial July Fourth holiday, ended up persisting for 102 days — the longest in Atlantic City casino history.
After roughly three months of both sides digging in their heels, casino management filed for bankruptcy. The casino closed its doors for good on Oct. 10, 2016.
In the time since, the union and some of its members filed several labor disputes against the company. The National Labor Relations Board upheld the union’s position.
The settlement that followed allowed Trump Entertainment, which is no longer associated with the current US president, to avoid a lengthy court process about a defunct property.
The fact that the checks were available on June 28 proved to be both coincidental and ironic.
Days are getting brighter in Atlantic City
However, June 28 was a day of celebration in America’s Playground. The debut of two new properties filled the entire city with a sense of promise and optimism about the future.
The dual openings also allowed the city to wash away two great disappointments. Along with the Taj’s ignominious demise, Atlantic City also endured the rise and fall of the multibillion-dollar Revel.
The Revel was supposed to lead Atlantic City back to glory. Instead, the casino resort, plagued by frustration over the design and customer service of the property, closed after a scant two years.
In its place sits Ocean Resort Casino. Owner Bruce Deifik hopes to reverse the curse of the Revel with a more friendly approach that focuses on the common man.
Back at the Hard Rock Atlantic City, the new casino will produce live entertainment every single night of its first year of operation. And now, 385 of the 450 union members will help Hard Rock AC move forward into the future.
Before the casino opened, the union executed a labor agreement with Hard Rock. Let’s hope this one lasts.