Monday, June 8, 2015

Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop: Stories of Atlantic City Casino Workers

by Kellie Brining, Jess Vo and Zach Rayment
Special Correspondents
Atlantic City has been in a state of decay for quite some time now. With numerous closings of the city's casino's, including The Showboat, Revel, and Trump Plaza, The Taj Mahal was anticipated to be next on the list. Facing bankruptcy, the company struggled to stay afloat. With little money to spare, tough decisions had to be made during the ensuing fight against an impending closure.  These tough decisions were precipitated by lay-offs, increasing the jobless market in the City, and leaving employees with very little options.
            Current Cocktail waitress Van Khanh Pham  has been in work at the Trump Taj Mahal for over 20 years, and shares her insights and worries over the proceedings in the following interview conducted by Jess Vo...

Jessie: What is it like to be working at Taj now compared to Taj when you first started?
Pham: The place definitely has change over the years. It’s a little run down in the corners where guests don’t pay attention. There are less guests, only few regulars remain. You can see that there are less workers now than before as people keep getting laid-off every year.

J: Are you afraid that you’ll get laid-off?

P: A little bit, even though I have been working at Taj for 20 years, my seniority isn’t as high as I would have hoped for. So if they decide to lay more people off, I’m definitely high on the list. However, they might choose the people who make more money than I do.

J: What about the rumor that Taj is bankrupt and on the verge of closing?

P:  Taj is bankrupt, according to the letter they sent out to the employees, they’ve declared bankruptcy, but I’m not sure about closing. We keep receiving letter saying what the last day will be, but that was in December, and January. Now, however I think they are going to stay open for a while more, maybe years.

J: How so?

P: Well, I heard they have a plan in place to fix up Taj, and to attract more customers.

J: How does it feel to live in the dark, and not know what will happen to your job?

P: It certainly is hard not knowing, I'm afraid that when I’m unemployed I’ll lose my house, my car, and I won’t be able to feed my kids. I barely make enough right now, working only a few days a week, waiting by the phone for Taj to call me into work that day. But, I really believe everything will be better once the new owner decides on a plan for Taj.

J: I know that co-workers talk among each other about the place they work at. Do you know what your co-workers thought on the subject?

P: We talk alright. Some of my co-workers are currently looking for a new job, and some are looking to move out of state. They really think that Taj is doomed to close either by the end of this summer, or when winter comes. Most of them are tired of living day by day, waiting for the final announcement that they are going to close Taj for good. One of my co-workers said that they are going leave the state because they think that New Jersey is dead, there is nothing left for them here. No jobs, tax rate is crazy, and it seems like no one doing anything to help out at all.
With anecdotal evidence provided by Mrs. Pham it is clear that fear among employees is high, and that workers don't really seem to have a grip on what is certain. Some feel that closure is still looming and that AC is a wasteland, while others are happy to hold onto a job for as long as they can sustain it. When letters went out about shutting down, the anticipated closure date was December 20th, 2014, leaving employees with low hopes for the future, and financial struggles amidst the holiday season.
Tides began to change however, after financial debates between Trump Entertainment Resorts and Carl Icahn resulted in the investment of $20 million from Icahn. USA Today in their report Icahn gives Taj Mahal casino $20M to stay open  quotes the owner of Icahn Enterprises  saying "Many people would still argue that it would be a better financial decision for me to let the Taj close and wait to see whether a global settlement can be reached, but I cannot be so callous as to let 3,000 hardworking people lose their jobs."

This incredible sentiment is not common in the business industry, an industry that is known for placing profit before people. What Icahn proposes is not only profitable for him in the long run after renovations are made, but for workers like Pham who depend on this source of income and employment. Hope, in a sense, is on the horizon, and the casino seems to be on track through the summer, with live performances scheduled up until Saturday August 15th, 2015, when Alice in Chains stops by to rock the house.
The Taj still stands, and perhaps when profits build, laid off employees can get their jobs back, or hopefully make connections elsewhere. The New Jersey Department of Labor and workforce development offers ACRE sessions, or Atlantic City Re-employment sessions for those who qualify for job replacement services and training. ACRE sessions are required by those collecting benefits trough unemployment. Whether applying for unemployment or immediately seeking new employment, the key is to act quickly and seek help actively. is a great resource for both filing for unemployment and or job seeking through a service called OnRamp. Opportunities exist, it's just a matter of finding them.
Works Cited

Parry, Wayne. "Icahn Gives Taj Mahal Casino $20M to Stay Open." USA Today. The Associated Press, 18 Dec. 2014. Web. 20 Mar. 2015. <>.

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