Workers to block Atlantic City streets in Trump protest

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 08, 2014 1:38 PM

By Daniel Kelley

(Reuters) - Casino workers plan to block traffic near a major entrance to Atlantic City, New Jersey, on Wednesday to protest attempts to terminate health benefits for union members at the Trump Taj Mahal casino, according to union officials.

The demonstration, which the union representing the workers said could bring arrests, comes on the 10-year anniversary of a similar protest that closed seven Atlantic City casinos for over a month in a labor dispute.

Trump Entertainment Resorts, the owner of the Taj Mahal, filed for bankruptcy last month and is seeking bankruptcy court permission to terminate health benefits and a pension plan. The company has said it will close in November if a deal is not reached on benefits and taxes.

If the Taj Mahal closes in November, it will become the fifth Atlantic City casino to close this year. The city started the year with 12 casinos.

While the Taj Mahal itself is several blocks away from the protest site, the demonstration will take place near the Tropicana, owned by billionaire investor Carl Icahn.

Icahn, Trump Entertainment's main creditor, has proposed converting the debt owed to him into ownership of the company.

"This is bigger than just one property," said Ben Begleiter, a spokesman for Unite Here Local 54, which represents about 1,100 of the Taj Mahal's 3,000 employees under a collective bargaining agreement.

In 2004, nearly 100 union demonstrators were arrested after blocking the streets near the off-ramp to the Atlantic City Expressway during a 34-day strike at seven Atlantic City casinos. The expressway serves as the major highway entrance into the city, which sits on a barrier island.

(Reporting by Daniel Kelley in Philadelphia; Editing by Susan Heavey)