Atlantic City Union Wins Round in Court Against Taj Mahal

A federal judge has ruled that Atlantic City’s main casino workers union did not violate bankruptcy law when it urged event clients of the Taj Mahal to boycott the casino while a labor dispute was underway. Meanwhile, the union has also voted to authorize a strike against the casino should the union lose its case to restore health benefits to workers at the casino, according to Local 54 President Bob McDevitt (l.).

A federal bankruptcy judge has ruled that Atlantic City’s main casino workers union was within its rights under federal labor law to urge events clients of the Taj Mahal casino to cancel and move events to other venues.

Trump Entertainment Resorts was seeking compensation for alleged lost business due to the union’s actions, in which it urged the boycott through letters to the casino’ clients. The company had argued that the union’s emails and telephone calls to the casino’s clients violated legal protections that generally bar groups from interfering with a bankrupt company’s assets, according to the Associated Press.

It also sought an order barring Local 54 of the Unite-HERE union—the city’s largest casino workers union—from sending similar letters to Taj patrons.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Gross, however, denied the request saying the union’s communications are protected by federal law on labor organizing.

Bob McDevitt, president of Local 54, praised the ruling and said the union was grateful to the “numerous” people and convention groups that he said have honored the boycott.

“Ten months ago, the Taj Mahal Contract Committee took the extraordinary move of calling for a boycott of their own casino in order to protest Carl Icahn’s attack on their lives and livelihoods and to restore their benefits in a new agreement,” McDevitt said. “We knew at that point that Carl Icahn didn’t have the legal right to stop us from talking to Taj Mahal customers.

Trump Entertainment Resorts still owns the property, but its main lender Carl Icahn is taking ownership as it comes out of bankruptcy. Last year, Trump Entertainment ended pension and health insurance for its unionized workers.

That has led to another extended legal fight as the union has appealed the bankruptcy court ruling that allowed Trump Entertainment to end the benefits.

In a move related to that appeal, the union membership has voted to authorize a strike at the casino should the union lose its case. The appeal is before the 3rd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

Members of the local—which represents nearly 1,000 service workers including bartenders, cooks, housekeepers and bellmen, but not casino dealers at the property—voted to allow the union’s negotiating committee to call a strike, if they feel it’s necessary.

Icahn has said he’ll cut off funding and close the casino if courts force the restoration of benefits.

Trump Entertainment Resorts said in a statement from the company that many Local 54 workers opposed the strike authorization and accused the union of an action that would “jeopardize employees’ wages and tips during a peak income period.”

Trump Entertainment also said it has a comprehensive plan to staff the casino in the case of a strike.