Trainers Organization Issues Warning on California Labor Legislation

Calling a backstretch unionization bill filed in the state Assembly a "very real threat to the viability of California's entire Thoroughbred racing industry," the California Thoroughbred Trainers organization is urging its members to actively oppose AB 856 as it works its way through the legislative process this year.

A letter from CTT president Leigh Ann Howard said the bill, filed in February by Los Angeles Democrat Herb Wesson and currently in the Governmental Organization and Labor and Employment committees, "would mandate that one union, the Service Employees International Union, be permitted to organize the employees of trainers, simply by obtaining a card from 50% plus one of the workers on the backside of the tracks. The union can say and do just about anything to convince the workers that they should complete a card expressing interest in the union." The process, if approved by a simple majority of backstretch workers, would certify the union.

"This is not only unfair," Howard wrote, "we are convinced it is unconstitutional, for it deprives the workers of the right to have an election, where they could voice their opinion without being represented by a union, privately.

"The CTT strongly opposes this bill," her letter continued. "We are working with other representatives of the industry to generate additional opposition because of the implications of the bill for the tracks, the owners, the breeders, the fairs, and the racing fan."

The legislation has language similar to a bill last year that combined backstretch labor issues with legalization of account wagering in California. That legislation was passed by both the state Assembly and Senate by overwhelming majorities but was vetoed by Calif. Gov. Gray Davis.