Just to clarify, Carl Icahn couldn’t actually be Trump’s biological “twin” because at age 80, he’s ten years older than his fellow billionaire. Still, in regard to swinish greed, naked ambition, and unvarnished contempt for working men and women, he surpasses Donald in almost every category, which is saying something, and which is why, even in hard-bitten business circles, Icahn has been described as “evil.”
Carl Icahn gained fame in the 1980s with his “raider mentality” and highly publicized hostile takeovers of corporations. He would borrow enormous sums of money to purchase a company, then pay off the accrued debt by breaking it up and selling its components, basically destroying the company. One can’t help but recall Harold Wilson’s reference to Edward Heath: “He reminds me of a shiver looking for a spine to run down.”
On Friday last, approximately 1,000 members of Local 54 of Unite-HERE, employed at Icahn’s Trump Taj Mahal Casino, in Atlantic City, went on strike, seeking higher wages, along with increased health and pension benefits. The Taj contract is recognized as the worst in Atlantic City. Although, for marketing purposes (huh?) the casino still bears Trump’s name, Donald Trump has no connection to it. Icahn owns all of it, lock, stock and barrel.
While our hearts and prayers go out to the men and women willing to take so courageous a stand, this strike is going to be especially tricky for them, not only for all the usual reasons, but because it’s a “splinter” walkout—organized labor’s version of coitus interruptus.
Because most of the workers who went on strike were servers, cooks, luggage handlers and housekeepers, it allowed casino dealers and security workers to remain on their jobs, which means that Taj Mahal customers likely won’t face undue hardship. It’s tough enough getting the public to honor union picket lines, but with a casino’s gaming tables being largely unaffected, it’s going to be an uphill battle.
In theory, for a strike to be successful, it needs to be coordinated and comprehensive. In short, it needs to be “complete.” Union workers go on strike in order to shut down an enterprise—deprive a business of its ability to make a profit—not simply to wound it or make a statement. So when part of the workforce (arguably, the most “vital” part in this case) is allowed to remain on the job, the strikers put themselves in a hideous position.
That said, given their inferior contract and failed attempts at persuading management to provide a fair package, Local 54 had no choice but to hit the bricks. Still, it took incredible guts and resolve to make that move. And while it’s more or less understandable why the public complains about professional athletes (most of whom are exorbitantly paid) going on strike, it makes no sense whatever when they bitch about housekeepers and luggage handlers doing the same thing.
One can only hope that, over this Fourth of July holiday, potential patrons of the Taj Mahal choose to honor the union’s picket lines, and take their business to another casino. Having been part of a picket line myself, I can’t tell you how gratifying it is to see people acknowledge a union’s attempt to get a fair contract.