The same union involved in a bitter labor dispute with Trump Taj Mahal management when the Atlantic City casino shut down in 2016 is being welcomed back to property by its new owners.
The local Press of Atlantic City newspaper reported this week Unite Here Local 54 and Hard Rock International have signed an agreement that could see the union come back to represent workers at the new Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City.
Local 54 president Bob McDevitt said the two sides have signed what is known as a neutrality card check agreement. Such an agreement means Hard Rock AC will recognize the union as the official bargaining agent of its employees.
But only if a majority of the employees sign a union membership card. As soon as Hard Rock recognizes the union, a first contract will be negotiated.
The former Trump Taj Mahal and Hard Rock AC’s plans
Hard Rock International bought the closed $1.2 billion Trump Taj Mahal for $50 million in April 2017. It soon began work on a $375 million renovation and rebranding. The cost of the work has since risen to $500 million, with Hard Rock planning to open the renamed Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City in the summer of 2018.
The property has been closed since October 2016 with then-owner Carl Icahn claiming a bitter disagreement with Unite Here Local 54 was to blame.
Icahn took over the casino in 2014 following parent company Trump Entertainment Resorts‘ third bankruptcy. When the property closed, Icahn said it had lost close to $350 million since he took over. Icahn also said he did not see a path forward without additional investments and losses in excess of $100 million.
When the Taj workers went on strike
Close to a thousand cooks, housekeepers, bellmen, and servers represented by Unite Here Local 54 had been on strike since July 2016. The two sides failed to come to an agreement on issues including wage and benefit provisions. This included health care and pension benefits originally taken away from workers in bankruptcy court.
At the time, McDevitt said Icahn “would rather burn the Trump Taj Mahal down just so he can control the ashes.”
McDevitt said labor peace and a content workforce could have been achieved for just a few million dollars. However, he claimed Icahn slammed the door on long-term workers just to punish them and break the strike.
Friendlier feelings for Local 54 and Hard Rock AC
McDevitt is now claiming his initial dealings with the property’s new owners have been much friendlier:
“Dealing with the management of Hard Rock has been an absolute pleasure so far. They understand how the Atlantic City market works.”
Hard Rock Atlantic City President Matt Harkness echoed those sentiments:
“Assuming that Local 54 is successful in obtaining the appropriate number of cards from our employees here at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City, we look forward to a long and productive relationship with Local 54. We are confident the collaboration will help us achieve a successful entry into the Atlantic City market.”
Unite Here Local 54 is the largest private-sector union in the region with more than 10,000 members.