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Taj union OKs strike

The contract for about 1,000 workers expired last September.

Workers at the Trump Taj Mahal have authorized a strike against the troubled Atlantic City casino hotel as they await a federal appeals court ruling on whether the casino must restore the health insurance and pension benefits it scrapped last year.

Members of Unite Here Local 54, which represents nearly 1,000 service workers, including bartenders, cooks, housekeepers, and bellmen - but not casino dealers - voted Thursday to allow the union's negotiating committee to call a strike if the committee feels it's necessary.

The union's last contract expired in September 2014.

Trump Entertainment Resorts owns the property now, but lender Carl Icahn is taking ownership as it comes out of bankruptcy.

Last year, the casino ended pension and health insurance for its unionized workers. That decision has been at the center of litigation that's now being contemplated by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

Icahn has said he'll cut off funding and close the casino if courts force the restoration of benefits.

"Carl Icahn may have thought that workers in Atlantic City would turn a blind eye to his abusing the employees at the Taj. He may have thought that Taj employees would have just been happy to have a job, but this vote shows that the men and women at the Taj are ready to fight to defend the kind of jobs that were promised when gaming was legalized - jobs with good pay and good benefits, in a workplace where everyone is treated fairly," Bob McDevitt, president of Local 54, said in a statement Friday.

Trump Entertainment Resorts spokeswoman Kathleen McSweeney said in a statement that many workers opposed the strike authorization and accused the union of an action that would "jeopardize employees' wages and tips during a peak income period." She said managers would staff the casino if there were a strike.

The strike authorization was the first against an Atlantic City casino since the industry's major downturn amid growing competition in neighboring states and the effects of the recession. Last year, four of the city's casinos closed, leaving eight.

The last authorization preceded a 34-day strike against seven casinos in 2004.

Icahn's office did not respond to a request for comment.