Taj Mahal union messages walls

Local union workers are likely to continue picketing at the Trump Taj Mahal, but they won’t be allowed to beam messages on its walls. (Image: AP)

Casino workers and billionaire investor Carl Icahn are involved in a battle that’s largely being fought with words, one over whether those workers should have their benefits reinstated and that could end in a strike.

But thanks to a ruling by one New Jersey judge, there are now a few more rules about just where those words can be placed.

Trump Entertainment Resorts, which is in the process of being purchased by Icahn, was able to receive an injunction from a judge on Thursday that will stop Local 54 of the Unite-HERE union from using projections to beam light messages onto the walls of several casinos in Atlantic City.

The union had been placing these messages on the Tropicana, which Icahn already owns, as well as the Trump Taj Mahal and the shuttered Trump Plaza.

Messages Call for Boycott

Union members had been projecting messages onto the walls at night, ones that said things such as “Boycott Taj.” That message echoes one that was sent out by New Jersey’s state chapter of the AFL-CIO, which told union members to boycott both the Taj Mahal and the Tropicana because of the ongoing dispute.

“We respectfully ask affiliated union members and their friends and family to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters at Unite-HERE Local 54, who have borne the brunt of Icahn’s ruthless and greedy assault on workers,” read a statement from the AFL-CIO. 

The bitter fight between Icahn and the union began when Icahn agreed to invest in the Taj Mahal, taking over the struggling casino in order to prevent it from closing.

However, as a condition of his purchase, he demanded that he be able to break existing contracts with the workers union, stripping pension plans and health insurance benefits from workers.

Benefits Appeal Ruling May Come Soon

A bankruptcy court judge allowed Icahn’s request last October, immediately drawing fire from the union, which vowed to fight any cut in benefits.

The case is currently being appealed, with Icahn saying that he would pull funding for the Taj Mahal and force it to close if the union is successful in restoring the benefits package.

While a decision on that case is still pending, it is expected to come soon. In the meantime, Trump Entertainment said that they were pleased with the ruling that should see an end to the messages appearing on their properties.

“We are gratified that the court put a stop to Local 54 activities that only harm the perception of Atlantic City and their own members,” Trump Entertainment said in a statement. 

However, the increasing acrimony between the two sides seems to be pushing the union closer to waging a strike against the Taj Mahal. According to Unite-HERE, that’s exactly what will happen unless Trump Entertainment agrees to restore benefits to its workers.

“We want to give the company one last chance to come to their senses,” said union spokesperson Ben Begleiter. “The workers at the Taj are fed up, and they’re ready to go on strike.”

The workers are currently receiving smaller stipends designed to help them purchase coverage individually, typically on exchanges created under the Affordable Care Act.

However, union workers say the stipends are not enough for those with families to get similar coverage to what they enjoyed under their previous health care plan.