Trump Taj Mahal officials say they want answers after a state assemblyman running for re-election signed letters to casino management urging them to not take action to prevent union workers from striking.
The letters, with the state of New Jersey seal, were signed by Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo and mailed to the homes of about 70 nonunion Taj employees by Local 54 of UNITE HERE. The union represents about 1,000 employees at the Taj Mahal.
Trump Entertainment Resorts CEO Bob Griffin said he wants to know how a list of management’s names and addresses were obtained and whether the mailing of an official state correspondence was paid for by the union.
Griffin said the casino has sent Mazzeo a letter asking for answers, but Mazzeo had not responded as of Tuesday. Griffin said the letter created “a lot of panic among the families” of those who received it.
Mazzeo, D-Atlantic, said he was asked by Local 54 to write a letter to leadership at the Taj Mahal, but did not know the letter would be sent to people’s homes.
“To those who received this letter at their home instead of the workplace, for that I sincerely apologize,” Mazzeo said in a statement. “That was never the intention. But I won’t apologize for standing up for the rights of Taj workers — both union and non-union who deserve the benefits that they’ve worked so hard for.”
Asked if Mazzeo wrote the letter himself, Local 54 President Bob McDevitt said the union sent Mazzeo a draft of the letter. Mazzeo’s office “tinkered around with it and made it theirs,” McDevitt said.
Mazzeo spokesman Marshall Spevak said Local 54 sent a “sample, template letter” and then the office rewrote it.
McDevitt said the union did pay for the postage to send the letters and the addresses were obtained “fairly easily” using the search engine Google.
“They seem to think we have some secret list,” McDevitt said. “They’ve never heard of Google.”
The Mazzeo letters, two of which were obtained by The Press, said, “I have great concerns regarding reports of alleged Federal Labor Law violations at the Taj Mahal, which are in connection to a recently announced strike authorization vote at the property by members of UNITE HERE Local 54.”
The letter, dated Aug. 31, later said: “Under the law you may not threaten, interrogate, or otherwise abuse workers with regards to a decision whether or not to strike. I urge you to fully abide by the spirit and letter of the law and undertake no efforts aimed at, or which can be construed as, preventing workers from striking.”
While the letter asked those who received it not to intimidate others, those who received it say they were intimidated by the letter.
“I feel like as an elected official, he’s bullying on the heels of the union,” said Cindi LePine, director of hotel operations at the Taj Mahal, who received one of the letters.
“It’s not a nice letter to receive, and a lot of spouses thought that their spouses were in trouble with the state of New Jersey,” Griffin said.
Mazzeo said the letter speaks for itself
“If employees want to strike, legally, they have that option, and I hope no one stands in their way,” Mazzeo said. “My sincere hope is that it won’t come to that — it wouldn’t be good for the Taj, and it wouldn’t be good for Atlantic City. The fact is that the workers, union and nonunion, earned those benefits.”
McDevitt said similar letters have been sent by the union in the past. He said Local 54 mailed letters signed by an elected official to management at Revel Casino Hotel.
“The only thing that makes this different is they are the only imbeciles to challenge the validity and the legality of the letter,” McDevitt said.
McDevitt said there has been “all kind of intimidation inside the property.” As an example, McDevitt said, there was a leak over a service bar at the property, dripping on the heads of cocktail servers. When the servers asked their manager what to do about it, they were told “wear a shower cap,” McDevitt said.
Griffin said a number of employees have approached casino officials about filing an ethics complaint with the state. LePine said she hasn’t decided whether to file a complaint, but said she was leaning toward doing so.
Jason M. Krajewski, legislative counsel for the state Legislature, said in an email that no complaint had been received or filed related to the letter or the attendant allegations about addressees, postage and return addresses. He said the conduct would most likely fall under the purview of the Joint Legislative Committee on Ethical Standards.
The letters generated buzz at Taj Mahal. A human resources email sent to nonunion employees said, “Many of you have expressed to us your concern with Assemblyman Mazzeo’s sole focus on Local 54 and his lack of support for the 2,000 non-represented employees, many of which reside and vote in his district.”
Mazzeo said he is proud to represent all workers at the Taj Mahal, not just those in organized labor.
“An agreement between Mr. Icahn and Local 54 on health and retirement benefits would be one that would have a positive impact on the lives of all employees at the Taj,” Mazzeo said.
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Staff Writer Reuben Kramer contributed to this report.