Skip to Content

Atlantic City workers protest casino closing and Carl Icahn

Union members from UNITE HERE Local 54 rally outside the Trump Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City, New JerseyUnion members from UNITE HERE Local 54 rally outside the Trump Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey
Members of Unite Here Local 54 rally outside the Trump Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City in October.Photograph by Mark Makela—Reuters

Members of the Unite Here Local 54 union who work at Atlantic City’s Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort walked the length of the city’s famed boardwalk on Wednesday evening to protest cuts to their benefits and a proposal to close the bankrupt casino on December 12.

The workers took sharp aim at billionaire Carl Icahn, the Taj Mahal’s sole debt holder, by organizing a protest under the #DontCahnMe tag on Twitter and wearing “I Will Not Be Cahned” stickers during the march. They walked Wednesday night from the Taj Mahal to the Tropicana casino, which Icahn owns.

“We’re out here tonight to demand the question of Mr. Icahn: are you going to be the hero or are you going to be the villain?” Unite Here Local 54 President Robert McDevitt told Fortune on Wednesday. “It’s totally within his power to keep the Taj Mahal open with the same benefits as other workers in Atlantic City.”

Trump Entertainment did not immediately return a request for comment.

Last month, a federal judge allowed the Taj to terminate a union contract and stop paying into the union health fund. Unite Here has appealed that decision.

Earlier on Wednesday, Trump Entertainment Resorts posted notices warning customers that the Taj would close December 12. The company has said that the closure could be avoided if the union drops its appeal of the court decision ending its contract.

The casino is pursing a deal to hand itself over to Icahn in exchange for him canceling $286 million of its debt that he owns. Icahn would then invest $100 million into the Taj. That plan is dependent on the company securing state tax breaks worth $175 million, a proposal the government has rejected.

Taj Mahal workers were joined on the boardwalk Wednesday night by employees from the city’s other casinos. Dan Cunningham, a bartender at Caesars, said he feared that his job might be at risk if the “domino effect keeps going.”

If the Taj Mahal shuts down, it will be fifth casino to close its doors this year. Atlantic City started the year with 12 casinos but, so far, The Atlantic Palace, Revel, The Showboat, and Trump Plaza have already called it quits.

“Once Ichan institutes [these cuts], the rest of the casinos will have a ‘me too’ policy,” says Chuck Baker, who has worked as a cook at the Taj since 1990. “Therefore, whatever you get, I’ll get. ‘You’re not paying into health care, well, neither am I. You’re not paying into pension or severance, I won’t either.’” If that happens, Baker, a resident of Atlantic City, says, “The whole economy around South Jersey is gone.”