Closing the doors did not go smoothly, as some of the 3,000 casino workers who have just become unemployed tried to wedge them open as they picketed outside the casino.
Chuck Baker, who has been a cook at the Taj Mahal since it first opened in 1990, led the pickets in a moment of silence. He told ABC:
“This didn’t have to happen. To [Icahn], it’s all just business. But to us, it’s destroying our livelihoods and our families. You take away our health care, our pensions and overload the workers, we just can’t take it.”
Icahn’s friend and the original builder of the casino, Donald Trump, expressed a similar sentiment to the Associated Press:
“I felt they should have been able to make a deal. It’s hard to believe they weren’t able to make a deal.”
Everyone, even the unemployed workers, is claiming victory
Carl Icahn made it clear to workers when they went on strike in early July that he had pumped $350 million into the loss-making property, and wasn’t going to invest another $100 million unless he got the pay and benefit deal he wanted.
Bob McDevitt, president of Local 54 of the Unite-HERE union said:
“The workers made a choice that they weren’t going to accept benefits and terms of employment worse than everyone else’s. I applaud them: For the first time in 30 years, workers stood up to Carl Icahn and made him throw in the towel.”
His words were echoed by Tina Condos, who has also worked at the Taj since its first day in business:
“We stood up to a billionaire and told him we wouldn’t take it. I hope it gives him pause before he tries to come in and do this to anyone else. We feel like we succeeded here.”
The surviving casinos in New Jersey can breathe a sigh of relief that there is a little less competition for them in what is a currently a brutal competitive environment.
The authoritative ratings agency Fitch has forecast that at least four casinos will close if the November referendum on North Jersey casino expansion passes. The industry has now lost 11,000 jobs since 2014 as casinos have failed to make sustainable profits.
A victory perhaps, but a Pyrrhic victory
Everyone involved may be claiming their part in the Taj Mahal closure as a victory, but it sure looks like a win that hurts.
The New Jersey labor market has few jobs available to ex-casino workers that will pay as well. Most will have to exit the industry and find work in another field.
Local 54 is probably going to lose a lot of members as workers move on to other sectors, and Carl Icahn will have to take a huge write-off for a business which he has failed to provide with a “path to profitability.”
One extra empty building on the Boardwalk won’t improve the attractiveness of Atlantic City as a holiday resort.
When Trump first built the Taj Mahal, he called it the “eighth wonder of the world.” Well, the world is back to seven wonders and none of them carry the Trump brand. Even Hillary Clinton will come out of this a winner.
A big business billionaire making thousands of middle-class workers unemployed for short term financial gain is meat to her marketing machine. With Trump so closely associated with the property, she has been given a valuable bad news story to use against the Donald.
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