On July 1, 2016, nearly 1,000 cooks, housekeepers, bellmen, cocktail servers and other service workers at the Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City walked out on strike. This was the accumulation of almost a 2-year battle with the casino’s billionaire owner Carl Icahn.

REPORT: Icahn’s Costly Vendetta: The Effects of the Labor Dispute at the Taj Mahal IMG_0868

It was in 2014 when Icahn, the notorious corporate raider, used bankruptcy proceedings to strip these workers of their healthcare and other benefits. This was the first time in Atlantic City’s gaming industry history that casino workers were without health care.

And on July 1, while 4 out of 5 casinos under a deadline to offer a fair contract for their employees settled in time to avoid a strike – the Trump Taj Mahal remained the only holdout.

The Tropicana, a sister property to the Trump Taj Mahal, operating under the same management and ownership, was among the properties who settled in time. Why not the Trump Taj Mahal? 

The workers tried everything to stop the strike from going forward before July 1.

To no avail.


After Trump Taj Mahal filed for Chapter 11 reorganization in the Delaware Bankruptcy Court in 2014, Carl Icahn’s lawyers convinced the bankruptcy judge to void UNITE HERE Local 54’s contract, bypassing the collective bargaining process.

As a result, the workers at the Taj Mahal lost their pension, their paid breaks, and most importantly, their healthcare.

Members of UNITE HERE Local 54 at Atlantic City casinos had made multiple concessions over the previous decade – including those at Trump Taj Mahal. For example, the most senior workers have seen over $0.80 per hour in raises since 2004. Workers chose to forgo wage increases and give up other benefits, as well.

All in order to preserve health insurance for themselves and their families. 

icahnrallyjuly2016 (13 of 30)Casinos in Atlantic City were voted in by the people nearly 40 years ago under the contingency that they’d provide good, middle-class jobs with benefits and fair wages that people can support their families on – year round. Prior to that, Atlantic City struggled as a seasonal destination, where many people were forced to go on unemployment during the off-peak times of year. Casinos offered the city a chance to be more than just a place to enjoy the shore in the summer.

Despite the industry’s ups and downs, there was one constant about Atlantic City casinos: their workers were provided healthcare. Until 2014, when the Trump Taj Mahal became the first casino not to provide its employees with health benefits. That’s been at the core of this fight for the workers: restoration of their healthcare. Everything they’ve done from pickets, to protests, to letter deliveries, to striking, has been to get back their healthcare.

To no avail.

There’s a number of people who believe that healthcare is a privilege, not a right; a luxury for those lucky enough to reap.

But in Atlantic City, not having healthcare is not the norm. It’s not a simple frustration. Healthcare isn’t something they were promised, and had that promise rescinded. acslide1

In Atlantic City, healthcare has always been a right; an expectation. To have that right stripped away by Carl Icahn during savvy bankruptcy proceedings wasn’t an unfortunate loss of a job perk. It was the plundering of a moral entitlement. An insult to their basic rights and dignity as working people.

Young or old, the workers at the Trump Taj Mahal all knew that it was fundamentally wrong for a billionaire to swoop in and finagle a way to strip their healthcare just to pad his pocket with a little extra dough. For nearly 2 years, the workers did all that they could to try to negotiate a fair deal with Carl Icahn in order to salvage what he cost to their health and livelihoods.

To no avail.

They workers of the Trump Taj Mahal have not been blind to the struggles Atlantic City has been facing. They are not rich, making on average $12.42 an hour.

But when asked to give they gave.

They have sacrificed to keep the Taj Mahal open. They sacrificed pay increases and other benefits in order to maintain health insurance for themselves and their families. Most recently, they sacrificed their demands to meet closer to the Taj Mahal’s most recent deal proposal, in the hopes to settle their dispute once-and-for all.

valbullhornAnd more important, to prevent the Trump Taj Mahal to shut its doors after 26 years as an Atlantic City landmark.

To no avail.

Measuring the Damage: The Effects of the Loss of Healthcare at the Trump Taj Mahal

Hard Times in America’s Playground

“Broke – Can’t get treatment”
Almost half on Government-subsidized insurance, one-third have none
The largest group, 33%, still have no insurance. Just under 50% of Local 54 members are now receiving taxpayer-subsidized insurance either through Obamacare, Medicare or Medicaid.

“All money goes to healthcare; losing apartment”
Health Insurance Costs Skyrocket for Taj Mahal Workers
The average premium the Taj Mahal workers are paying for Obamacare is $204 per month, with a deductible that averages $2,455.

“Have to cut down on medicine due to not being able to afford”
Serious medical conditions are not being treated as they once were
72% have serious medical conditions affecting themselves or their families that have been impacted by the loss of UNITE HERE Healthcare.

“Almost homeless”
82% have had difficulties paying essential bills.
Healthcare expenses have ballooned to an average of almost $2,450 with an average deductible of $2,455.