Legal battles rage as A.C. casinos’ fates hang in the balance

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Fights over the fates of two bankrupt Atlantic City casinos heated up Tuesday as the main casino workers’ union filed 27 charges of unfair labor practice against the Trump Taj Mahal’s owner and Revel urged a judge not to delay its sale any further. Local 54 of the Unite-HERE union told the National Labor Relations Board that Trump Entertainment Resorts threatened workers and unilaterally changed work schedules and rules that cost employees money during a bitter ongoing labor dispute and disrupted their lives.

“These charges allege serious violations of federal labor law and demonstrate a disregard for the rule of law and basic fairness at the Taj Mahal,” union president Bob McDevitt said. “They allege that managers threatened and discriminated against workers for union activity.” Among the charges filed with the labor board are that the company fired a union shop steward, attempted to get a union member to spy on the union to management and tore down union literature and threw it on the floor, saying, “It’s the union’s fault that this place is closing.”

The Trump Taj Mahal narrowly escaped closing in December when billionaire investor Carl Icahn put up $20 million to keep it afloat. Icahn, who is acquiring Trump Entertainment by swapping $286 million in debt for ownership of it, said last week the work rules are outdated and unaffordable in the current Atlantic City market, where four of the 12 casinos shut down last year.

The first installment of Icahn’s new funding is expected to reach the casino on Thursday. “This will provide us with the necessary funding for the operations of Trump Taj Mahal through 2015 and should put to rest any concerns about our future,” Trump Entertainment CEO Bob Griffin said.

A bankruptcy court judge in October allowed the company to end health insurance and pension coverage for its workers, a move the union is appealing. Icahn, who wants to shift Taj Mahal workers to insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act, has threatened to close the casino if the union wins its appeal. The labor board filed a brief last week in support of the union, urging the bankruptcy court judge to reverse his decision, saying it is not supported by federal labor law.

Also Tuesday, Revel asked an appeals court judge not to delay its sale any longer while an appeal from restaurants at the property is heard. Revel has been closed since Sept. 2. In its response to an appeals court ruling last week that temporarily halted the sale of Revel for $95.4 million to a Florida developer, the casino said a delay past Feb. 9 could cause the buyer to walk away. Developer Glenn Straub’s attorney has said he may forsake the deal if it is delayed past the scheduled closing date.

Revel also says the restaurants should have to post a $120 million bond to compensate it in case the Straub deal falls through. It also is trying to fight off an attempt by its utility supplier to cut off its electricity, heat and water by 5 p.m. Thursday. ACR Energy Partners says it has no other way to ensure Revel will pay its bills.