Hard Rock Open To Local 54 Staffing New Casino Property
Following the sale of Trump’s Taj Mahal by Carl Icahn to the Hard Rock International and investors Joe Jingoli and Jack Morris, the next big question on everyone’s mind in New Jersey is will the Unite Here Local 54 hospitality workers union be chosen to staff the new Hard Rock Casino & Hotel Atlantic City?
According to a recent meeting between Union President Bob McDevitt and the new casino owners, there is a very real possibility Local 54 members will return to the casino and hotel, should investors choose to unionize the property.
According to the Press of Atlantic City, McDevitt released a statement including details of the meeting, where he said, “We have had a conversation with Joe Allen (chairman of Hard Rock International) and Joe Jingoli about working with the union and having that property unionized.” The Chairman of the Hard Rock International, Joe Allen, was also quoted as saying, “We are looking forward to working with Local 54.”
The move comes as a shock to some, as the union’s president and former Taj Mahal owner had an enduring quarrel during the casino’s dwindling presence on the Atlantic City strip. Carl Icahn had been quoted as describing McDevitt as one who “spews out bombastic rhetoric” and had essentially “decided to destroy the Taj.” It has even been reported that Icahn offered to pay McDevitt’s transportation and moving costs if he were to agree to leave town and the union itself.
The closing of the Taj Mahal saw an initial loss of 2,100 jobs, with 1,000 of those positions belonging to the Local 54. Positions included housekeepers, bellboys, bartenders, servers, and other integral hotel and casino personnel.
State Senate President Steve Sweeney chimed in at the prospect of the two organizations working together, saying he was hopeful the Local 54 would be given the chance to return to the property. Sweeney had brought forth legislation that aimed to punish Icahn for his offloading of the property earlier this year, a bill that Governor Chris Christie had vetoed and called “Legislature at its worst.”
Sweeney defended his position regarding the union and former owner that, “The union workers at the Taj wanted nothing more than to be treated fairly for their labor. Unfortunately, under the former ownership, that wasn’t happening.” More recently, he stated that he was optimistic at the prospect of the union and new ownership getting along, saying, “The hospitality workers of Atlantic City are some of the best in the nation. I am confident that the new management will negotiate in good faith with the employees.”
Allen outlined the plans for the newly acquired property, which will include a venue to host “world-renowned musicians” and provide dining and other entertainment options that will be heavily inspired by rock and roll culture. The interior and exterior of the venue will also be completely remodeled to reflect the iconic Hard Rock casino and resort imagery.
The new owners of the property are estimating they’ll invest nearly $400 million in renovation and will require the skills of 1,000 temporary construction workers, but provide the opportunity for 3,000 permanent positions to be filled by the Local 54 once construction has been completed. The union currently has 10,000 members and is self-described as “the largest private sector union in South New Jersey.”
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