Let me preface this column by saying two things. I hate making predictions on union negotiations; the chance for making a mistake is too great and as an outsider, you are not privy to all the details. It also involves a sort of conspiracy theory attitude. If you are right you are a genius and if you are wrong, you look like an idiot. Secondly, I hope I look like an idiot when all is said an done.
First of all, for those who wanted to know what the current contract with Local 137 is which expires on February 1, 2012, it is the following according to North Jersey.com:
According to the agreement, work shifts for most track employees are for 5½ hours, with workers permitted as many as seven shifts per week. Veteran tellers are to receive $132 per shift, or $24 an hour, according to the deal. The per-hour rate for ushers works out to $15.81 per hour, with similar rates for elevator operators, will-call agents and admissions sellers.
Employees who have worked at the track for 10 or more consecutive years are entitled to five weeks of vacation plus 11 personal days. Those with one year of experience get three weeks vacation and five personal days
I have no idea what the contract offer Jeff Gural made and quite honestly, it doesn't matter for purposes of this discussion. The problem is Monmouth Park.
It seems the labor unions contract with the NJSEA at Monmouth Park have already expired. Being rumors have indicated that 910 job losses at Monmouth and the OTW to be controlled by the lease holder (certainly not all tellers), the tellers and other employees who fall into the same category as those employed at the Meadowlands are very nervous. Being the NJSEA operated the Meadowlands and Monmouth; the same union is involved at both tracks which makes sense as in the past Monmouth tellers came North for the Hambletonian and Meadowlands tellers went South for Haskell Day..
If the Meadowlands was being treated in a silo, it would be one thing, but being there is no contract at Monmouth Park, it is quite possible union leadership is fearful whatever contract they agree to at the Meadowlands may be construed as the starting point in the negotiations at Monmouth Park. Hence, giving in too much at the Meadowlands may weaken their negotiating stance with the new operator of Monmouth Park. Of course, one thing that favors Jeff Gural is Plan B. No contract at the Meadowlands means all these people remain on unemployment and extended unemployment benefits.
So obviously, the Meadowlands contact is not in a silo; it is intertwined with Monmouth Park. Approval of Jeff Gural's offer may depend on the message union leadership sends to its members when it is voted on. Certainly, not a position harness racing fans ought to relish. At this time, anyone who tells you the contract is a done deal or going down to defeat is clearly guessing. I imagine within the next day or two we will know the future of the Meadowlands. But I'm not optimistic.
And I hope I am wrong.
Please note I am instituting a self-imposed Meadowlands Blackout. There are many people whose livelihoods are threatened and at this point to make a parlor game out of speculation is not fair to anyone. Hence, until there is definite news regarding the Meadowlands to report on, the Meadowlands is off limits to me.