Unruly Picketers at the Trump Taj Mahal
The term, ‘Peaceful Public Protest,’ is one that has always been subject to interpretation by laymen and lawmen alike, but I recently encountered a situation at the Trump Taj Mahal that I think went beyond the realm of, ‘Peaceful Public Protest.’ As many readers know, Unite Here 54 has been picketed in front of the Trump Taj Mahal, as well as on the Boardwalk side, since July 4th of this year to protest the fact that the Trump Taj Mahal is not offering the retirement and health benefits that those same Union Members enjoy at the other Atlantic City casinos, including the Tropicana, which is also owned by Carl Icahn.
I actually discuss the overall situation in a lengthy Article at LatestCasinoBonuses.com, which I will link to at a later time, so I am going to avoid redundancy by not reiterating my entire opinion of the overall situation. For the purposes of this Article, I am just going to discuss my personal experience with the actual Picketing.
On the Boardwalk side of the casino, I would say that my experience of what the picketers were doing definitely fell within the boundaries of, ‘Peaceful Public Protest,’ while quite loud, these individuals were mainly playing kettle drums and garbage cans as well as marching around in a circle singing songs about the Taj Mahal. If nothing else, I would describe the picketing atmosphere as almost festive and entertaining, and briefly debated whether or not tipping the singers would be in poor taste...I decided that it would be.
The street side entrance of the Trump Taj Mahal was an entirely different scene altogether and represented my first experience with the picketers. These people were literally screaming at cars as they went by and my privacy and security (in my opinion) were violated in multiple ways. For one thing, these protesters (albeit temporarily) blocked the driveway by walking back and forth across it and impeding the progress of my vehicle. Presumably, this was so that my girlfriend and myself would take the time to listen to what they had to say, um, scream, but blocking a vehicle’s progress, in my opinion, certainly does not fall into the category of, ‘Peaceful.’
Furthermore, I may have made a mistake by not rolling my windows up, but one of the Unite HERE 54 Members literally leaned his head and upper body into my vehicle as I stopped to avoid potentially hitting the other picketers who were blocking the car. I would give this person the benefit of the doubt, though, because perhaps he didn’t see his compatriots temporarily block the progress of my vehicle and took my stopping as an invitation to engage in discussion with us. Of course, even if he had interpreted it that way, I personally think that such interpretation, at most, would serve as an invitation to stand beside the vehicle and talk to us, not to physically lean into the vehicle and talk to us (while we are surrounded by other screaming people) and disseminating his flier that contains many derogatory statements about the Trump Taj Mahal.
It should also be mentioned that the, ‘Literature,’ that they are passing out just lists a number of perceived inadequacies at the casino, as a whole, including what they apparently deem to be health violations. The majority of this flier did not discuss the health benefits that the picketers are actually protesting not receiving. In my opinion, such dissemination is in very poor taste because attempting to portray the entire casino in a negative light will adversely impact their ability to attract future business and has nothing directly to do with what the workers are seeking. If the Union Members were sharing information and personal stories about what the lack of these health care benefits meant for them, rather than attempting to trash the casino as a whole, then they may have found a more sympathetic ear.
When I finally conveyed to the person, in no uncertain terms, that I was not there for a lengthy conversation and was also concerned about impeding any traffic that may be behind me, he finally extracted himself from my vehicle. I am usually not one to complain about perceived slights, but the fact that he physically leaned into my vehicle, with his head and shoulders almost fully within the confines of my vehicle, I consider a gross invasion of privacy. Furthermore, while I will not go into any specifics, it was very physically clear that my girlfriend was uncomfortable with the entire situation....and that was before he inserted himself into my car!
I write about this situation not as a warning to avoid the Trump Taj Mahal while the picketing is going on, I think that the Trump Taj Mahal losing business does not have a positive impact on anybody, least of all the workers who will not have a job in the event that the establishment loses so much business that they have to close their doors. I am writing about this situation for two reasons:
The first is a Warning about the sort of behavior that might (but not necessarily will) be expected from some of these picketers. The first thing that I would advise is, if you are entering the Trump Taj Mahal from the street side, you are going to want to make sure that your windows are up for two reasons:
A.) The screaming is, actually, quite loud. However, I would say it is within the realm of, ‘Peaceful Public Protest,’ even if it is annoying.
B.) It is apparently possible that at least one representative/Member of the Unite HERE 54 Union does not have any appreciation of privacy or personal space whatsoever, and as a result, will take an open car window as an invitation to partially insert himself into your vehicle and talk to you.
I am almost certain that such is not the behavior directly encouraged or endorsed by the Unite HERE 54 Union leaders, so I also think it is important that they recognize that at least one of their Members is doing something like that and, as a result, will send one of their managing representatives to explain to the picketers what sort of behavior is to be encouraged while picketing.
Furthermore, such an action is also dangerous for the individual who did that. What if I had interpreted his actions as overtly hostile and then decided that I had to defend myself? That would not have happened in my particular case because I am a level-headed individual who saw no reason to view the person in question as an actual physical threat to either of us, but there are people out there who might. Even more than that, there are people out there who might actually not determine that he was a physical threat, but would claim to and be physically hostile with him as a way of, ‘Teaching him a lesson.’
I am convinced that it is slight provocations such as that which will occasionally result in something that is patently a, ‘Peaceful Public Protest,’ turning into a physical altercation, and even potentially, a riot situation. Therefore, it is important that the Unite HERE 54 management make it very clear to their Members and representatives that there are proper ways to protest, and if in doubt, they should definitely protest in a manner that is clearly in the, ‘White,’ and avoid any gray areas.
Again, I can appreciate him taking my window being down as an invitation to stand fully outside of the automobile and talk to me only inserting his flier in my window if I asked him to. When he inserts himself, or anything else, into my vehicle without my requesting it, then that is a violation of privacy, property and personal space. At a minimum, it makes for an uncomfortable situation, and at a maximum, some people might construe him as a threat.
Furthermore, I would also suggest that taking actions such as that portrays the Union itself, and all of its Members, in a negative light. Remember that this Union represents Casino workers throughout all of the casinos in Atlantic City, so a less level-headed person might decide that they are going to avoid ALL Atlantic City casinos completely because they do not want to directly or indirectly support Union Members who would be so inconsiderate when it comes to invading personal property and privacy.
In my opinion, these representatives in the front of the casino could take some cues from the representatives on the Boardwalk side. While those representatives are dealing with a very serious issue, (and I agree that the issue is serious, even if I tend to side slightly with the ailing Taj Mahal in this case) they are engaged in doing things in such a way that, I think, would encourage people to listen to them. They are effectuating a fun and festive atmosphere, and while they may be yelling at people not to go into the establishment, the individuals that I saw were not doing so in a way that I would consider even remotely violative of either privacy or personal space.
In other words, I wanted to get the Hell away from the people in the front of the casino and would be inclined not to give a rat’s posterior what their plight is, while on the other hand, I would be more than happy to give one of the representatives in the back a few minutes of my time to listen to what they have to say.
I do not consider myself an individual who is easily persuaded to change my views on things, but at the same time, I do consider myself an individual who keeps an open mind and is willing to change my position in the light of Empirical evidence, expert opinion, or extremely compelling non-expert opinion. I also like listening to people because I know that people tend to get a good feeling when they are being respected and listened to openly, so my default position is that I am generally eager to hear what people around me have to say...I would be a very poor writer if that was not my default position!
To that extent, the people in the front of the casino served to drive me away from ever wanting to listen to their plight given their garbled and incoherent screaming, temporary blocking of the progress of my vehicle (which, they may have just been crossing the way and decided to come back not necessarily specifically intending to block the vehicle, but during a picket, that is the impression one cannot help but get) and with one Member even going as far as to directly violate our privacy and personal space.
The individuals in the back of the casino both entertained me and made me want to speak with one of them. However, I did not speak to any of them directly because I was still frustrated by my experience at the street side entrance. Not only would they have found a sympathetic ear, but perhaps they would have compelled me to take on their view and I would be writing an Article about their plight and why I believe they are on the correct side of the labor dispute rather than an Article saying, ‘Roll up your windows when you approach the Taj Mahal!”
In other words, they had the potential to receive an active listener as well as someone, if my opinion were switched, willing to advocate on their behalf and with a well-known Internet platform (these Forums) from which to do so. Unfortunately, that opportunity was essentially squandered as I did not really want to talk to them given my frustration as a result of my initial encounter.
With that said, if the picketing is still going on the next time I find myself in Atlantic City, I do believe that I will attempt to engage one of them in a proper interview. I don’t know whether that will happen or not as there is apparently a potential labor contract with lesser health benefits that the Union can either choose to accept or decline by this Monday. If they accept it, then presumably the picketing will come to an end.
I did get to meet one representative, however, who worked for the Revel before it closed as a bartender who was on his way to the Taj in support of his comrades. He was a really nice guy who, while he did not talk much about the subject matter of the picket or the other working conditions at Taj Mahal (because he wouldn’t know, he said) he did discuss his time at Revel, how beautiful the inside of the property was, and his opinions of the ways in which the property was mismanaged. Hopefully, if the picketing is still going on during my next visit, I can get an interview with another person who wants to have a calm, rational and peaceful discussion with me.
And, hopefully, the next time I am there if the picketing is still taking place, the Union Members will recognize that the word, ‘Peaceful,’ is just as important as the words, ‘Public Protest,’ and integral if they want to sway the opinions of the people whom they are targeting.