ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a union challenge seeking to restore health and pension benefits for more than 1,000 workers at the Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City.
But not even the nation’s highest court could end a bitter dispute between the union, which vowed continued picketing to try to drive away business from the casino, and billionaire investor Carl Icahn, who has sparred with it over benefits he considers unaffordable and extortionate.
The justices let stand lower court rulings in favour of the former Trump Entertainment Resorts, once run by presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. The labour strife occurred after Trump was no longer involved with the company, save for a 10 per cent stake for the use of his name; that stake was wiped out in bankruptcy court.
The union indicated it will continue to picket the casino, which is now owned by billionaire investor Carl Icahn.
“Just because courts have OK’d Icahn seizing our health insurance, pension and paid breaks doesn’t mean that this company will be able to rebuild its business while workers are still without health care, and protesting in the streets,” said Al Wallinger, who has worked as a bellman at the casino since it opened in 1990.
Icahn, who took control of the casino in March after propping it up with tens of millions of dollars during its nearly two years in bankruptcy, insisted the union is putting its own profits before the job security of its workers.
“Even the union will not deny that without our capital when it was sorely needed, the Taj Mahal would not exist today,” Icahn told The Associated Press. “It is amazing to me that the union is still fighting us. It’s as if they’re hoping to see us close.”
The company filed for bankruptcy protection in 2014 and a federal bankruptcy judge imposed cost savings sought by the company. They included terminating health insurance and pension benefits for unionized workers.
The company gave workers cash stipends to purchase health insurance on their own through the Affordable Care Act, but many workers say it has been insufficient.
Local 54 of the Unite-HERE union represents most Atlantic City casino workers and it appealed the judge’s order. The union said labour law prohibits an employer from abandoning a collective bargaining agreement, even in a bankruptcy. It has authorized a strike against the Taj Mahal, but so far workers have not walked off the job.
Icahn repeatedly said that if a higher court restored the benefits that were cancelled by the bankruptcy court, he would withdraw financial support from the casino and shut it down.
He is investing $15 million on immediate upgrades at the casino, which is making an ambitious effort to win back business it lost during its bankruptcy.
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