Hard Rock Atlantic City Between Rock and a Hard Place Over Casino Workers Union

Posted on: April 15, 2017, 02:00h. 

Last updated on: April 14, 2017, 02:13h.

Owners of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City, the new name of the former Trump Taj Mahal, are currently mulling whether the property should welcome back the service workers union that engaged in a strike with the resort’s previous owner.

Hard Rock Atlantic City Local 54 Trump Taj
The Local 54 workers union that sparred with Carl Icahn last fall over pay and benefits at the Trump Taj Mahal are now petitioning to get their jobs back under Hard Rock’s ownership. (Image: Edward Lee/Press of Atlantic City)

Billionaire Carl Icahn and the Unite Here Local 54 union couldn’t come to terms on wages and benefits last fall. The Trump Entertainment Resorts owner and friend to President Donald Trump said the union wanted too much, too soon.

The union argued its members were struggling to make ends meet, and were being unfairly treated by the corporate takeover specialist. In October, Icahn chose to close the property and take a nearly $350 million loss.

Now Hard Rock and its investors are debating whether to welcome the union back when it reopens in the summer of 2018 after a planned $375 million renovation. Speaking with thePress of Atlantic City, Local 54 President Bob McDevitt says talks are ongoing.

“We have had a conversation . . . about working with the union and having that property unionized,” McDevitt explained.

Hard Rock Tips Hand

Privately owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, Hard Rock International attracted investors Joe Jingoli and Jack Morris in purchasing the closed Trump Taj Mahal at an undisclosed price. Both partners are real estate developers, but Hard Rock International will maintain majority control.

The Seminoles, along with Jingoli and Morris, will look for a smooth renovation and reopening of the casino resort. And when it does, Local 54 workers might be reemployed by the property.

“We are looking forward to working with Local 54,” Hard Rock International Chairman Jim Allen said recently.

Hard Rock’s willingness to work with the union might come as a surprise to some considering Icahn lambasted Local 54 for the Taj’s demise. In a letter sent to employees last August, the billionaire said McDevitt “spews out bombastic rhetoric” and has “decided to destroy the Taj.”

Icahn even offered to pay for a one-way plane ticket and cover McDevitt’s moving costs should he agree to leave town and the union.

Total Makeover

Hard Rock has operated one of its iconic rock and roll-themed cafes at the former Taj for more than 20 years. When the casino reopens next summer, the restaurant’s décor will spread throughout the resort.

Last week, the company announced its refurbished vision for the Boardwalk property. Hard Rock says it will part ways with the Taj Mahal theme in favor of a music-centered environment.

Allen said in a press release the Hard Rock will host world-renowned musicians, and dining options will be inspired by rock and roll. The hotel rooms will be updated, and the building’s exterior facades and resort entrance will receive a complete overhaul to adhere to the refreshed look.

Hard Rock says it will hire 1,000 temporary construction workers to complete the renovation. It will then need to fill some 3,000 permanent positions, and that’s where Local 54 will likely come into the picture.