US POLITICS

Debate Watching With Soon-To-Be Fired Trump Taj Mahal Workers

Donald Trump's casino crown jewel closes Monday morning. Employees gathered to watch their old boss debate on the boardwalk

US POLITICS
Ryan Beckler for Vocativ
Oct 09, 2016 at 11:29 PM ET

While Donald Trump was trading jabs with Hillary Clinton on a debate stage in St. Louis Sunday night, the last Atlantic City casino bearing his name was preparing to close for good, leaving 3,000 people jobless. 

The Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, which the candidate once dubbed the “eighth wonder of the world,” is set to shutter at 5:59 a.m. on Monday, after its current owner Carl Icahn decided to shut it down amid a labor dispute. Trump himself hasn’t owned the property for several years — but that doesn’t stop many assembled from blaming him and his mismanagement for their impending unemployment. 

Outside the Taj Mahal, a two thousand-room tower opened by Trump in 1990, a group of dozens of casino workers gathered around a TV to watch the debate. The striking employees aren’t permitted inside, but they came to watch the debate, some wearing their union’s red t-shirts, others with young kids in tow. A few snickered, but most stood watching quietly.

Greg Natale, a cocktail server at the hotel for 20 years, said, “Trump and Icahn took this place from first class to busted ass. Trump built this place and left us to the wolves of Carl Icahn.”

“These workers are the hardest group of people I know,” he continued. “Carl Icahn broke up a family.”

“This place is closing because of him,” Maurice Ford, a bellman at the Taj for 15 years, said. “If you can’t run a business, how can you run a country? Donald Trump and Carl Icahn extracted money from these casinos and never put any back in.”

A cocktail server who’s worked at the Taj for 26 years, since the day it opened, said, “Casinos are what [Trump] does well. President is something he’s not fit for.” The woman, who declined to be named, then summed up her feelings for the GOP candidate. “He’s not the kind of person who looks out for other people, he just looks out for himself.”

Carl Icahn, the billionaire business magnate, took over ownership of the property after its fourth bankruptcy in 2014. Around one thousand workers walked out on July 1 of this year, after union demands for better benefits and increased wages went unmet. In August, Icahn said the union had “blocked any path to profitability,” and announced the closure. The shuttering of the Taj Mahal is the capstone on Trump’s long, controversial legacy in the New Jersey gambling mecca, ending decades of big profits and frequent bankruptcies. 

Joe Trifiletti, another cocktail server at the hotel since opening day in 1990, said while he’s upset to be losing his job, he sees a little bit of poetic justice. Standing on the boardwalk, with the looming Trump sign behind him, he said, “We couldn’t wait to see his name disappear from the skyline. Now it’s gonna happen.”