Guild: Churchill Lawsuit an 'Attack on All Jockeys'

The Jockeys' Guild said March 7 it plans a legal response to a lawsuit filed by Churchill Downs Inc., but in the meantime the organization has accused CDI of "union-busting" and of attacking all jockeys, not just Guild members.

CDI, in a suit filed March 4 in U.S. District Court in western Kentucky, claims the Guild orchestrated walkouts at Churchill Downs and Hoosier Park last November and thus violated anti-trust laws. The company also pulled its voluntary contribution to the Guild of about $375,000 this year.

CDI also released the transcript of a Nov. 7 teleconference of the Guild Senate in which jockeys and Guild management discussed several issues, including the walkouts.

The Guild repeatedly has denied it orchestrated the boycotts at the two CDI-owned tracks. Jockeys walked out in protest of what they call inadequate on-track accident insurance.

In its latest response, the Guild again accuses CDI of patronizing jockeys. Previously, the Guild likened Churchill Downs and Hoosier Park to slave plantations.

"It's the oldest trick in the capitalist book--say you care about the workers but you don't like the company they keep," the Guild said in its release. "We'll take care of you, the overlord says, because you don't have the brains to take care of yourselves, and anyone who tells you that you must organize in order to secure your rights as workers, well, he must be selling snake oil."

The release noted how Kentucky racetracks are working to increase the maximum insurance benefit from $100,000 to $1 million for on-track medical expenses. It also noted how Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher and the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority plan to push for workers' compensation legislation during the 2006 General Assembly session.

"Now that CDI has recognized the collective strength of the jockeys and the public and governmental support for the goals of the Jockeys' Guild, they have decided to attempt to destroy Guild rather than treat their modest requests with decency and fairness," Guild vice president Albert Fiss said.

The Guild claims an "attack on the Jockeys' Guild is an attack on all jockeys." It said the position by CDI is "paternalistic, as it presumes jockeys are not able to maintain their own representation and speak for their own interests."

In a December interview with The Blood-Horse, Guild president Dr. Wayne Gertmenian touched on the same themes when he said: "The industry has always been hostile to jockeys and the Jockeys' Guild. Jockeys are called 'pinheads,' 'boys,' and 'girls,' and told if they don't like it, they should go to work at McDonald's."

CDI chief operating officer Andy Skehan, on the day the lawsuit was filed, said the company is attempting to work with jockeys and improve its relationship with them. He said CDI has issues with Guild management only.