With strike possible, Taj Mahal casino union begins preparations

 Local 54 union members picket outside the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort in Atlantic City in May to protest  elimination of their health insurance and pension benefits by a bankruptcy court judge. Union leaders are preparing for a possible strike.  (AP file photo)

Local 54 union members picket outside the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort in Atlantic City in May to protest elimination of their health insurance and pension benefits by a bankruptcy court judge. Union leaders are preparing for a possible strike. (AP file photo)

The union representing more than 900 uniformed hospitality workers at the Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City will begin preparations Tuesday for a possible strike, but union leaders have not yet decided whether workers will walk off the job.

UNITE HERE Local 54 will begin loading equipment including water coolers, clothing, furniture and — of course — the giant inflatable rat into a trailer to prepare for any work stoppage.

Union officials will also begin training strike captains.

The escalation by Local 54 comes after months of wrangling with Taj Mahal management and billionaire investor Carl Icahn, who have cut employee health and pension benefits as the casino struggles to emerge from bankruptcy.

Local 54 president Bob McDevitt accused Taj Mahal management of trying to revive the struggling casino by taking benefits away from workers, while failing to put new resources into the property.

“Clearly there’s two ways to do this. You can either do it the right way, which is freshen up the property, do reinvestment and reinvent,” he said.

“Or the wrong way, which is beat up the workers.”

The union wants to see the restoration of employee benefits that were cut in bankruptcy court last year, McDevitt said.

He defended the wisdom of a job action and said it will not provoke Icahn, who runs the Taj Mahal, to close the casino, which Icahn has threatened to do before.

“Closing the casino has always been a decision solely in the hands of Carl Icahn,” McDevitt said Monday. “He can close the casino any time he wants, but to live your life in poverty because of the threat that someone’s gonna close a casino is insane.”

Local 54 represents uniformed hospitality workers at the Taj Mahal, but not security staff or dealers.

Trump Entertainment Resorts, the Taj Mahal’s parent company, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

But when the unionized Taj Mahal workers voted to authorize a strike in July, the company said it had a contingency plan in place in the event of a work stoppage.

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