Labor Dispute Won't Stop Belmont Stakes

Labor Dispute Won't Stop Belmont Stakes
Photo: Rick Samuels
A labor dispute will not deny I'll Have Another's Belmont Stakes attempt.
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A labor dispute will not prevent the running of the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) June 9, the New York Daily News reported June 5.

According to the story, the New York Racing Association said the show will go on even if there is a strike. In addition, a spokesman for the union that has threatened to walk out told the newspaper the race would go off as scheduled.

“There’s no way that this isn’t going to be run,” said Vincent McElroen, financial secretary for Local 3 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which represents starting gate workers and other workers at Belmont Park. “Whether it’s our guys putting the horses in or a bunch of scabs, it’s going to happen.”

According to the Daily News, NYRA president Ellen McClain said the association has developed a contingency plan in case of a strike but refused to provide details. She also wouldn't reveal whether nonunion workers or out-of-state crews would be brought in.

“We’re bound and determined to run the races and that's what we’ll do on Saturday,” McClain told the Daily News.

Both sides met with a mediator from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. There were several hours of talks June 5, but no reports of progress, the Daily News reported.

According to the Associated Press, about 150 union members at the New York Racing Association's Belmont, Aqueduct and Saratoga tracks have been working without a contract since February 2011, a year after the previous contract was given a one-year extension. The workers last month authorized a strike to begin June 8, a day before the running of the Belmont Stakes, the final jewel in the Triple Crown. I'll Have Another will be trying become the first horse to win the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978.

Of the 150 workers IBEW represents, about 80 work at Belmont, including pari-mutuel clerks not involved in the dispute, McElroen told the Associated Press.

The major sticking points have been overtime and the structure of the tracks' work week, according to the Associated Press. NYRA runs races Wednesday through Sunday, but the contract covers a Monday-through-Friday week, which means union workers earn built-in overtime on weekends. NYRA is seeking to immediately take away overtime for working Saturdays and Sundays, a move the union says will cut some workers' pay by 30%.

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