Justices reject union appeal over Trump Taj Mahal bankruptcy

ATLANTIC CITY — The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a union challenge seeking to restore health and pension benefits for more than 1,000 workers at the Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City.

The justices let stand lower court rulings in favor of the former Trump Entertainment Resorts, once run by presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

But the union indicated it will continue to picket the casino, which is now owned by billionaire investor Carl Icahn.

The company filed for bankruptcy protection in 2014 and a federal bankruptcy judge imposed cost savings sought by the company. They included terminating health insurance and pension benefits for unionized workers.

The company gave workers cash stipends to purchase health insurance on their own through the Affordable Care Act, but many workers say it has been insufficient for them to purchase coverage.

Local 54 of the Unite-HERE union represents most casino workers and it appealed the judge’s order. The union said labor law prohibits an employer from abandoning a collective bargaining agreement, even in a bankruptcy. It has authorized a strike against the Taj Mahal, but so far workers have not walked off the job.

“Just because courts have OK’d Icahn seizing our health insurance, pension and paid breaks doesn’t mean that this company will be able to rebuild its business while workers are still without health care, and protesting in the streets,” said Al Wallinger, who has worked as a bellman at the casino since it opened in 1990.

Icahn stepped in to buy the casino out of bankruptcy court and is keeping it open. He took control of the casino in March, but had been keeping it afloat during its bankruptcy.

He repeatedly said that if a higher court restored the benefits that were canceled by the bankruptcy court, he would withdraw financial support from the casino and shut it down. Icahn says the benefits Taj Mahal workers used to receive are unaffordable in Atlantic City’s current, slimmed-down shape. Four of the city’s 12 casinos went out of business in 2014, buffeted by competition from casinos in nearby states.

Icahn is investing $15 million on immediate upgrades at the casino, which is making an ambitious effort to win back business it lost during its bankruptcy.

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