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Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City.

Edward Lea

A federal judge in Wilmington, Del., will decide the fate of Trump Taj Mahal on Friday afternoon. Bankruptcy Court Judge Kevin Gross is expected to rule at 3 p.m. on parent company Trump Entertainment’s request to force concessions on members of Local 54 UNITE HERE.

Trump Entertainment has threatened to close the casino by Nov. 13 if it is not permitted to drop its pension and healthcare obligations.

The casino employed 2,854 people on Sept. 1.

Local 54 President Bob McDevitt said that the union would confer with members and plan their next move after the ruling.

“One thing I can assure you is while they’re all sleeping at night, we’ll be planning whatever our reaction is,” McDevitt said.

In court Tuesday, attorneys for both billionaire financier Carl Icahn and Trump Entertainment argued that they need to make the cuts as part of broader $14.6 million reductions. These include eliminating healthcare coverage in exchange for a $2,000 stipend for Affordable Care Act coverage, eliminating one and a half hours of paid break time per shift, and dropping pension payments in exchange for a 401(k) plan with up to a 1 percent match.

Icahn’s attorney Allan S. Brilliant said in court Tuesday that Icahn remained willing to buy the property, even if changing the contract lead to a Local 54 strike. McDevitt demurred on Thursday, saying the union had not discussed striking.

Icahn could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Local 54 has said they are concerned that dropping the pension and healthcare obligations at Trump Taj Mahal could have a broader effect citywide on the members of the 10,500- to 12,500-person union. Many contracts are linked through a “most favored nations” clause that generally standardizes conditions across the casinos.

The union’s contracts were set to expire last month, but McDevitt has said all but Taj Mahal and the Icahn-owned Tropicana agreed to six-month extensions.

The contract concessions being sought are part of a “three-legged stool” needed to keep the Taj Mahal upright, Trump financial adviser William Hardie said in court Tuesday.

But it is not clear that Trump Entertainment would receive those other parts of the “stool”, even if Gross rules in its favor Friday.

The casino firm was working with the New Jersey Gaming, Sports and Entertainment Advisory Commission on a broader package that would benefit the casino and the rest of the resort’s gambling houses, Hardie said on Tuesday. The proposal would combine a five-year, $30 million payment-in-lieu-of-taxation proposal as well as $25 million in state grants.

Atlantic City previously rejected a 30 percent assessment reduction.

However, commission Chairman Jon Hanson was noncommittal, acknowledging a Trump attorney had spoken with him.

“We are not in negotiations,” Hanson told The Press of Atlantic City on Thursday. Hanson, an adviser of Gov. Chris Christie appointed to steer the resort through its struggles, said, “We are in listening mode. They appear to have a wish list of things they’d like to do.”

Hanson said the commission’s job was to find ways “to reduce the cost of government in Atlantic City.” The Trump proposal, he said, “It’s not our number one mission.”

The state money being sought includes grants from the state’s Urban Revitalization and Economic Redevelopment programs, both of which require legislative approval.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney has angrily blamed Icahn for last month’s closing of Trump Plaza.

He and other labor leaders have also taken aim at Icahn and Trump Entertainment for seeking to get concessions from workers who earn $19,800 per year on average.

In a bipartisan Boardwalk press conference attended by most resort leaders last week, Sweeney, who controls the agenda in the state Senate, said, “You get nothing from us until you treat workers with respect and dignity.”

Contact Derek Harper:

609-272-7046

@dnharper on Twitter

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Senior copy editor for the Press of Atlantic City. Have worked as a reporter, copy editor and news editor with the paper since 1985. A graduate of the University of Delaware.

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