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Blame game continues as Icahn rejects Taj Mahal union’s contract proposal (Read More…)

Aug 31, 2016
By Alison Burdo

The owner of the Trump Taj Mahal has double downed on accusations that the leader of the casino workers’ union was the driver behind the upcoming October closure in a statement that said UNITE HERE Local 54 stands to gain from the use of a union-run healthcare plan and its president used “misleading propaganda” to try to force management to adopt it.

“Bob McDevitt and the Taj bargaining committee have no one to blame but themselves for this sad outcome,” said Tony Rodio, president and CEO of Tropicana Entertainment Inc., which manages the Atlantic City casino on behalf of Icahn Enterprises, on Monday. “If McDevitt cared even one iota about the future of the employees he would have allowed them to vote on the proposal we offered five weeks ago based on his recommendations, which we believe could have saved the Taj. But in the end he blindsided us and the employees because closing the Taj served his personal purposes.”

The union previously told the Philadelphia Business Journal the last time the two sides came to the table to negotiate was in late June, just before the round-the clock strike began on July 1.

So on Monday, in an effort to change the Taj’s current path, the union presented management with a new contract proposal. From the employees’ perspective, the deal was a win-win since it came in at only $1.3 million more than Icahn’s last offer and would restore their healthcare benefits, which they lost in 2014 when then owner and current GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump brought the casino to bankruptcy court.

But Rodio says the union has it all wrong – from the nature of the Monday meeting to the characterization of its previous healthcare package offer.

“Local 54 leadership reached out to Taj Mahal management to schedule an effects bargaining meeting, which we believed was to discuss closing procedure. This was not a negotiating session,” Rodio said.

The long-winded statement, which touted Icahn Enterprises’ “positive impact” on the casino and other industries while casting McDevitt as a liar, also insisted management previously offered “an excellent healthcare plan, which [McDevitt] himself had outlined and told us would be acceptable” before it was rejected.

Diana Hussein, a Local 54 spokeswoman, said Wednesday the new contract proposal still called for concessions from workers, and the additional cost to the owner was made up almost entirely by the proposed healthcare change.

“It doesn’t sound like if it was a penny difference, they would have accepted,” she said. “It really made clear just how serious they were about [avoiding] closing.”
Taj Mahal closure small win for remaining casinos, dent to A.C.‘s reputation

The union has consistently pointed to health benefits as the sticking point in negotiations. And on Thursday, Rodio accused the union and its leader of using healthcare as a bargaining chip because the UNITE HERE-run plan “generates exorbitant profits for the union – profits that McDevitt has become accustomed to.”

“Unlike most healthcare plans negotiated by unions, UniteHere demands that Atlantic City casinos pay over $10,000 per employee per year to the union controlled healthcare fund which is well above the cost of healthcare,” Rodio said Thursday. “In fact, we have ascertained that these excess funds have allowed the UniteHere healthcare fund to generate over $250 million in net income for the union healthcare fund – without imparting any benefit for the union membership.”

But Hussein rebuffed his comments, saying: “It is not a profitable scheme that we have going on. All the other casinos are under it. ... Bob has nothing to gain from having our workers on that. Our union has nothing to gain.”

“Without health benefits, half of [the] workers at the Trump Taj Mahal rely on taxpayer subsidized health insurance. A third have no health insurance at all, putting them at risk of bankruptcy in the event of an illness and forcing taxpayers to pay for visits to the emergency room,” Local 54 said in a statement Monday.

Rodio doesn’t deny those claims. Instead, he mentioned it as a reasonable option for the casino workers last week – and detailed a $2,000 stipend made available to them through the Taj.

“Most of the Taj Local 54 employees and their families qualify for substantial subsidies under the Affordable Care Act and many qualify for free health insurance under New Jersey’s CHIPS and Medicaid programs,” he said, “and the $2,000 extra payment each year goes a long way toward paying for those subsidized premiums, deductibles and out of pocket costs for employees who want to purchase insurance.”
Hussein countered: “That is nothing, I think it is twice that as a deductible.”

“I don’t know what we could have done, what we could offer to them at this point that would prevent them from closing,” she said.

The Taj is scheduled for shutdown on Oct. 10. At least 3,000 workers are expected to lose their jobs when the casino closes.

 

Posted by Admin on 09/01 at 09:32 AM
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