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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Local 137 Approves Contract

The Executive Board of Local 137 has unaminously approved a revised contract with the Gural-led group which appears to clear the way for Jeff Gural to lease the Meadowlands.  A legal ruling was received by the executive board indicated their approval removed the need for a vote from the general membership.

This is not without any concession by the Gural-led group.  While the workers will have to accept a 20% cut in pay at the conclusion of the current contract, wording which the union felt threatened senority rights was removed, thus ensuring senority rights are preserved without doubt.  In addition, the contract was further sweetened to modify the definition of what constitutes a full time employee for pension and benefits to reflect the gross reduction of racing dates.  To qualify for full time status an employee must work 200 shifts a year with live and simulcast racing shifts counting the same. 

The reality of the situation is a win-win.  Yes, the tellers had to accept a painful 20% pay cut and considering what has happened to them in the past, I understand the anger.  Unfortunately, they were taking the frustration out on the wrong person.  The tellers are an unfortunate victim of circumstances as are a lot of people.  While everyone was focusing on the pay cuts, the Gural-led group was also sacrificing by agreeing to losing a projected $1 million a month until the new grandstand is opened with the possibility of a casino at the Meadowlands, conceivably not occuring before 2018 if the Governor is re-elected to a second term and still without a guarantee that the horsemen would share in it.  But the win part for the union was their getting their senority rights and ability to obtain full time status clarified so no one should lose benefits due to the revised schedule nor should anyone fear being dumped for someone making a smaller salary.  Hopefully, the animosity of the past two months can be put behind as everyone moves forward.

Will the Meadowlands resume racing May 7.  Nothing has been said yet, but my assumption is it is unlikely; a delay of a week or two seems inevitable.  Remember, there are still a few minor issues in the lease which need to be addressed but they appear not to be show stoppers, the main issue the division of simulcating revenues with the thoroughbred horsemen.  It appears the lease may be finalized by the end of the week.  However, the threatened layoffs should be cancelled and simulcasting should continue without interuption.

Those in the harness racing world and New Jersey in particular will be sleeping easier tonight.