In a campaign stop in South Jersey on Wednesday, presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton laid into her Republican rival, businessman Donald Trump, who previously owned a handful of casinos and hotels in Atlantic City.
“When this casino collapsed because of how badly he managed it,” said Clinton, standing in front of the now-shuttered Trump Plaza, which closed in 2014, “hundreds of people lost their jobs, shareholders were wiped out, lenders lost money, contractors — many of them small businesses — took heavy losses.
“But Donald Trump? He walked away with millions.”
Clinton was introduced by Marty Rosenberg, who owns a glass company he said Trump owed money to but never paid.
Rosenberg said there were many other small businesses just like his. “Trump’s actions caused great financial burdens to most of us.”
But a mile up the Boardwalk, where a casino still bearing Trump’s name continues to operate, the story is a little bit different.
“Go Trump!” exclaimed Dina Jones, a cocktail server of 22 years at the Trump Taj Mahal.
About a thousand workers at the Taj Mahal walked off the job on Friday, demanding casino managers restore the health and pension benefits that were cut last year.
In her speech, Clinton called for workers to continue fighting for an equitable contract (“We should support them in getting a fair deal!”), but the casino is no longer helmed by her Republican opponent, who bore the brunt of her criticism on Wednesday.
Billionaire investor Carl Icahn owns the Taj Mahal now — not Donald Trump.
“When [Trump] was here, he took care of the employees. He cared about us. We cared about the building. It was a win-win situation,” said Jones. “Now with Hillary coming in and trying to blame ‘Trump this, Trump that’ — he’s been out of this building for years!”
Taj Mahal porter Bill Brown said Trump was only a decent boss but was nonetheless better than Icahn.
“[Trump] was all right. He came in every so often, talked to the workers, said ‘hi,” said Brown. “But now it’s a hedge fund. Carl Icahn took it out of bankruptcy. Just give us what we want.”
Barrick Legette, who’s worked as a cook at the Taj Mahal for 19 years, said he supported Clinton for bringing attention to Trump’s time in Atlantic City, but he also said that workers never had to fight as hard for benefits under Trump as they do under Icahn.
“[Trump] was OK as an owner. We got stuff. We didn’t get things. OK, but it was a give and take,” said Legette. “We gave [under Icahn]. Now it’s time for us to get back a little, that’s all.”
The union, Unite Here Local 54, said no new contract talks are scheduled with the Taj Mahal.
As Clinton’s speech echoed across social media Wednesday afternoon, Margate resident Carol Esterman said she was happy that Trump’s former business dealings in Atlantic City are getting national attention.
“I’m thrilled that she brought to everybody’s attention how Donald Trump ripped this city off,” said Esterman.
“The rest of the country doesn’t know that, but everybody in this area knows it because they were affected by it.”
Trump, after the speech, responded through a statement from his campaign.
“Out of the hundreds of businesses I have owned over the decades, and hundreds of deals and transactions, I have used the chapter laws of our country in four instances, much as many of our country’s elite business people do,” he said. “It is an effective and commonly used practice in business to use bankruptcy proceedings to restructure a business and ultimately save jobs.”