January 30, 2015
To the Local 54 Employees Who Delivered a Letter to Me Yesterday:
I received the letter you delivered this morning and thought you made a number of interesting points. In it, you correctly stated that I see myself “as the underdog fighting against entrenched corporate executives.” But you were wrong when you stated that this time I am “fighting housekeepers, bartenders, food servers, bell people, cooks and cocktail servers.” In fact, nothing could be farther from the truth. The truth is that I am not fighting against the employees of the Tropicana and Taj Mahal. I am fighting for those employees – fighting to save their jobs in the midst of a wholly unstable crisis – and my efforts are being mischaracterized and attacked by a union that exploits those employees for its own gain.
Please allow me to explain. Atlantic City is facing catastrophic circumstances. As you know, gambling revenue in Atlantic City is declining rapidly, while the costs of running a casino continue to increase. The Taj Mahal loses millions of dollars every month at a time when it desperately needs millions of dollars in capital improvements and maintenance. The only reason the casino is still open, and the only reason you still have jobs, is because, against the advice of almost all of my advisors, I agreed to provide the Taj Mahal with as much as $20 million in additional loans.
Needless to say, in a situation as difficult as the one facing Atlantic City, everyone will have to make sacrifices. But what I find so disheartening in the case of the Taj Majal is that, while the rest of us involved in the bankruptcy process have been working diligently, day and night, to find a compromise that will accrue to the benefit of all of the Taj Mahal’s stakeholders, your union is urging customers to boycott the Taj Mahal, thereby exacerbating the casino’s tenuous financial situation, and spreading purposefully misleading information, in each case in an effort to serve only its own wants to the detriment of your future employment.
In your letter, you stated that you worry about whether or not you will have health insurance for your children, and I know that you have that worry because your union leadership claims that I am taking away, and leaving you without, healthcare. But that simply is not true. The Taj Mahal’s plan is to transition you from the existing UNITEHERE Health plan, which the Taj Mahal simply cannot afford, to healthcare coverage under ObamaCare and Medicaid. And no matter what your union leadership says, there are three indisputable facts about this plan, each of which was a factor in the Bankruptcy Court’s finding that transitioning you to ObamaCare and Medicaid was essential to the Taj Mahal’s survival:
- ObamaCare and Medicaid provide health coverage at a fraction of the cost of the coverage provided under the existing UNITEHERE Health plan;
- To help cover any new costs you may incur in connection with the transition, the Taj Mahal has increased each full time employee’s annual wages by $2,000, thereby subsidizing your new healthcare under ObamaCare or Medicaid; and
- Because many of you are Medicaid eligible or will qualify for ObamaCare subsidies, some or all of this $2,000 in increased compensation will end up as extra money for you to keep (which increased compensation should somewhat help ease your concerns about whether you “are going to be able to afford to raise a family”).
Your union leadership has repeatedly insisted that despite these facts, they will never agree to any health care program other than UNITEHERE Health. That is because your union is more interested in maintaining the extremely profitable UNITEHERE Health plan than in working with the Taj Mahal to make this as easy as possible for you. And I guess that makes sense when you consider that the only information available to us about UNITEHERE Health indicates that it is a lucrative racket for those in charge. Since October of last year Tropicana has repeatedly requested information about UNITEHERE Health. But your union leadership, including your union president, who is a trustee of UNITEHERE Health, and the management of UNITEHERE Health have all continually refused to answer any questions about UNITEHERE Health’s operations. As a result, the only information anyone knows about UNITEHERE Health is that it made $140 million in net income over the last five years and has increased the value of its equity to almost $300 million while also employing relatives of former UNITE HERE! executives with annual salaries in excess of $300,000 and fully funded lifetime pensions that provide for annual payments of up to 75% of their highest salary.
Your union leadership is also telling you that the appeal at the Taj Mahal is critical because they are fighting to restore work rules even though the Bankruptcy Court determined these very work rules needed to be modified to save the Taj Mahal. The truth is that those work rules are from a bygone era when Atlantic City was booming. Today, with a struggling company in a rapidly declining industry, those work rules cannot be sustained. The work rule modifications are not extraordinary by any stretch of the imagination. On the contrary, they actually bring the Taj Mahal into alignment with how almost every company outside of Atlantic City operates. Simply put, modifying the work rules to reflect that gaming revenues in Atlantic City are a fraction of what they used to be is an essential sacrifice that must be made in order to stabilize the Taj Mahal.
As Bob Griffin and the company have said many times, other than your union leadership, everyone involved in this process has been doing everything they can to save your jobs. But, even in the face of indisputable facts, your union leadership continues to use your union dues to finance a fight against the Taj Mahal and the Tropicana. They don’t seem to care about the facts, such as the fact that you will still have healthcare under the current plan or the fact that the Taj Mahal simply cannot afford to continue paying into their profitable UNITEHERE Health fund. They also do not seem to care that if they win the appeal it will only mean the loss of the very jobs they are supposed to protect. It’s a sad state of affairs.
Carl C. Icahn