California Racetrack Bill Gets Final Passage

Legislation that would legalize telephone account wagering and reform backstretch conditions at California racetracks received final passage Thursday and has been sent to the governor for his signature.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the bill (AB 2760) was approved by the Assembly on a 56-6 vote Thursday after being passed 38-1 by the Senate on Wednesday.

Among the provisions of the bill, which could lead to unionization of backstretch employees, is a requirement that trainers submit their payroll records for annual audits. In addition, state housing officials would be required to conduct annual inspections of living quarters at the racetracks before the state would allow races to be held.

"These workers are not protected by the National Labor Relations Act or the state Agricultural Relations Act," Assemblyman Herb Wesson (D-Culver City), co-author of the bill, said Thursday. "We've got some of the most vulnerable employees in the state here, most of whom are Latinos. This is our attempt to protect them."

The Times noted that the telephone account wagering provision was added to the bill by Wesson and other lawmakers to obtain support from the state's racing industry.

The newspaper reported that industry groups and labor leaders earlier this week reached agreement on providing a prescribed means for backstretch workers to join a union.