By Stephanie Kelly
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Casino workers striking on Friday outside the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, New Jersey, will continue on a 24-hour basis throughout the holiday weekend, a spokesperson for the workers’ union said.
About 1,000 cooks, housekeepers, bellmen and servers walked off the job at 6 a.m. local time Friday after the union and management failed to reach an agreement on wages and health benefits.
Unite-Here Local 54 union spokesperson Ben Begleiter said workers are striking outside most of the casino entrances, while chanting, pounding drums or using bullhorns.
Despite its name, the casino is no longer operated by Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.
Unite-Here Local 54, the union representing thousands of Atlantic City casino workers, reached a tentative settlement on Thursday with Tropicana, which is owned by billionaire investor Carl Icahn as is the Trump Taj Mahal. The union also reached a settlement with Caesars Entertainment, which owns Atlantic City’s Caesars, Harrah’s and Bally’s.
Negotiations with the Taj Mahal, however, failed to meet a July 1 strike deadline.
Begleiter said the economic packages in all the other settlements are about the same. However, the Taj Mahal did not offer a proposal that met workers’ needs on issues such as health insurance, he said.
“We’re ready to negotiate when the company is ready to bring something fair and reasonable to the workers to consider,” Begleiter said, adding no talks are currently scheduled.
The last strike by Local 54 was in 2004 with about 10,000 workers. It was over health care and contracting issues and lasted 34 days, Begleiter said.
Neither Icahn nor his representatives were immediately available for comment.
According to a union statement, many workers at the Taj Mahal have seen an hourly raise of only 80 cents in the last 12 years. Over the same period, the cost of living in Atlantic City has risen by more than 25 percent. Taj Mahal workers earn an average of less than $12 per hour.
The union asserts Icahn drove the property into bankruptcy as the principle creditor between 2010 and 2014. Following the bankruptcy, he cut health benefits, retirement security, paid breaks and worker compensation in wages, it said.
Bob McDevitt, Unite-Here Local 54 president, held a conference call with reporters ahead of the strike, saying casino workers throughout Atlantic City gave up a package of vacation, holiday pay and overtime rules in 2011 when casinos were struggling financially.
According to McDevitt, those givebacks cost an average of $1,300 to $1,500 per employee.
“They want that stuff back,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Hilary Russ and Michael Flaherty in New York; Editing by Daniel Bases, Matthew Lewis and Bernard Orr)