ATLANTIC CITY — The name “TRUMP” plastered above the Boardwalk entrance to the Taj Mahal casino provided the backdrop for the Local 54 strike Sunday as Democratic members of Congress joined pickets ahead of their party’s convention in Philadelphia.
U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross, D-1st, pointed to that name as he told the employees on strike that Democrats are going to win the election in November.
“We’re going to defeat the guy who has his name up there,” he said.
The congressional representatives were on the boards Sunday to stand with more than 1,000 cooks, housekeepers, bellmen, bartenders, cocktail servers and other service workers from the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort calling for a contract that includes health care contributions.
About 100 union members wearing red “Unite Here” shirts and carrying signs chanted, “All day, all night, Taj Mahal is on strike,” as they marched before the casino doors.
The workers have been on strike since July 1 at the casino owned by billionaire Carl Icahn.
Charles Baker, 56, of Atlantic City, has been a cook at Taj since it opened in 1990. He was happy to see the support from Washington, D.C.
“We’re getting support from all over the country. That shows that people do care, America does care about what happens to the workers here in Atlantic City and across the country,” Baker said.
Norcross chanted, “One more day,” with the pickets Sunday, sharing his patronage to their cause.
“Strikes are about will. It’s about how long you can stay here. I don’t think Icahn really is going to suffer today,” he said. “Nobody has ever come in here and tried to do what he is doing, so as tough as it gets, what are you going to do? One more day.”
The strike follows on the heels of agreements with Tropicana Atlantic City and Caesars Entertainment, which owns Caesars Atlantic City, Harrah’s Resort and Bally’s Atlantic City.
The event comes four days after Taj Mahal officials pulled their latest contract offer, which the casino said included restoration of contributions toward the employee health insurance plan. The union did not accept the offer.
Local 54 President Bob McDevitt said the union wants a better plan.
“The offer that they had on June 30 was a crappy health care plan with very high deductibles,” he said.
Half of Taj Mahal workers rely on taxpayer-subsidized health insurance, according to the union. A third have no health insurance at all, putting them at risk of bankruptcy in the event of an illness and forcing taxpayers to pay emergency room visits. Some workers rely on other public assistance, such as food stamps, union officials said.
Having the members of Congress present, McDevitt said, offered a boost in morale.
“It’s really important to the strikers to know that they’re story is unfolding around the country,” he said.
Referencing a small memorial on site for Taj worker Esau Ivan Madrid, who the poster states died while on strike, U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-6th, said the workers deserve fair wages and benefits.
“People die, people get sick. If you don’t have adequate health insurance, what are you supposed to do? You just want not only a decent wage, but decent benefits so you can have health insurance if you have to go to the hospital,” he said.
Maria Elena Durazo, the Democratic National Committee vice chairwoman, called the pickets “heroes and sheroes.”
Durazo, of California, is the Unite Here International vice president of civil rights, diversity and immigration affairs. She called on workers nationwide to follow in the footsteps of Local 54 members.
“The fact that you are on strike, you are doing something about it,” she said.
Just one day before the start of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, the congressional representatives also used the opportunity to stump for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Norcross referred to the Republican ticket of Donald Trump and Mike Pence “the Donald and Mickey show.”
“These people (who) take their money and run with it and leave us high and dry will have to answer to us, because come November, we’re going to dump Trump and we’re going to elect Hillary,” said U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson-Coleman, D-12th.