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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Some Movement?

One conspiracy theory which continues to live is that Governor Christie has a deal with the tellers for them to refuse to come to an agreement with Jeff Gural so the Meadowlands would close up and when a casino comes to East Rutherford, the casino industry would be able to cut out horse racing of a share of the profits.

So let me get this right, perhaps the most anti-union governor New Jersey has ever seen is in bed with the Meadowlands tellers?  A local of the AFL-CIO, whose mission in life is to see a governor like Christie defeated is going to make him look good?  No disrespect to the Governor, but these very same unions are more likely to be sending the Governor gifts from every possible food of the month club that exists with the exception of Fruit of the Month than they are to be co-conspirators.  Sounds like something out of The Sopranos.  Well, this is New Jersey....

Seriously, I know people love conspiracy theories, but wouldn't it be more advantageous for a future potential Presidential Candidate to be able to cite how he took an industry off the public welfare rolls and got them to become vibrant privately run industries  that contribute to the state economy?  Secondly, with the success Xanadu is having, wouldn't it be just as easy to put the casino in that empty hulk of a building and cut racing out of the profits?

No, the blame for the lack of a contract extension between the tellers and Gural is rooted somewhere else.  Perhaps it has more to do with the fact they previously took a 15% salary cut during the Whitman Administration and now are being asked to take a 20% salary cut; totalling 35%.  Maybe it has to do with the automation of their jobs via self-service machines which requires less tellers to work making a large number of their workforce part timers instead of full timers.  As much as people claim about abusive tellers, maybe it is the idea of getting ninety-nine weeks of unemployment instead of having to deal with abusive customers is appealing.  Or as preposterous as it may sound to the Christie - Local 137 conspiracy theorists, maybe it is Local 137's way to stick it to the Governor (though admittedly, I don't see the Governor loosing any sleep over this).

The fact is we don't know why the tellers are acting this way.  For all we know, it may be a negotiating ploy.  We for the most part know the Gural position on things.  What I would like to hear is from the Union Leadership their view on the negotiations so we can understand why they may be jeopardizing not only their own jobs, but the jobs of fellow union members as well as possibly an entire industry.  After all, you don't enlist public support without talking to the public.  After all in this economy, while it would be messy, there is nothing to keep someone from moving forward and come February 1, 2012 (when the contract expires) impose their own terms and lock the tellers out as I assure you the economy will still be lousy enough that there would probably be a riot of people trying to replace the tellers (scabs, I believe union people call them).  According to Dave Little of the New York Daily News, what was previously an impossibility may be becoming a possibility as Jeff Gural is starting to talk about moving ahead without the union's approval.

So since the union won't publicly explain their rationale at this time, let's borrow from David Letterman.

Here are the top ten reasons why Local 137 refuses to approve the contract extension.
10) They still believe they can get a better offer if they hold out.
 9) They believe there is someone else who will bid on the Meadowlands if Jeff Gural drops out who will give them a better deal.
 8)  Social Security for those old enough and unemployment benefits for the others is preferable to working for less money.
 7)   Christie is bluffing and there will still be simulcasting.
 6) Laugh if you will, but there is a Christie- Local 137 conspiracy. Really, there is.
 5)  Contract?  I thought we were voting whether to have a Christmas Party or not.
 4)  They believe it is like "Who Shot JR?" and they believe they will wake up and find out it is all a dream. 
 3)  The negotiating team is afraid of people with beards.  It reminds them of Fidel Castro (Ironic isn't it?)
 2)  Tellers annoyed their contract doesn't allow them a day off to audition for American Idol.
 1)  The tellers still can't believe it that Niatross finished out of the money in the 1980 Meadowlands Pace Elimination and they lost their shirts.

Well, as you can tell reasons 1-5 were just an attempt at some humor in a glum situation.  As we mentioned before #6 is highly unlikely.  So lets talk about items 7-10.

10) They believe they can get a better offer if they hold out - Big mistake if you believe this.  When you are negotiating with the government or a corporation where they are spending other people's money, you can get away with this.  But those putting up the money actually are putting their own money up.  You tend to be a lot more conservative when you spend your own money.  You have the best offer you are going to get,, unless you get someeone else to bid on the Meadowlands..

 9) They believe there is someone else who will bid on the Meadowlands if Jeff Gural drops out who will give them a better deal. - Take it from someone who owned stock in Brandywine Raceway, they will not be coming out of the woodwork to buy a harness track without the prospects of a racino.  Did you see all the people complain about the lack of competitive bidding when Jeff Gural was given the right to negotiate to lease the Meadowlands?  Did anyone come up before Jeff Gural to say they were interested?  Let's face it, as much as I love harness racing, buying a $2,000 claimer to race at Thunder Ridge Raceway is a better investment to most people than buying a racetrack without the prospects of a casino.  You're dealing with Jeff Gural or no one else.  I don't see it, but then, maybe the union sees it a different way based on the following statement from Dave Little's article:  As for Local 137, "There's another meeting we are having (Thursday) with some people," Bartolotta added. "I don't want to say who they are until after the meeting, but they are important people."  It will be interesting to see who these important people are.

8) Social Security for those old enough and unemployment benefits for the others is preferable to working for less money.  Sadly, this may be the rationale in play.  After taking a 15% pay cut once before and now being asked to take a 20% pay cut, considering some of the tellers have been there for ages, it may be the way they are thinking.  Preposterous?  When I first graduated college in a recession, I worked as a messenger with a lot of older individuals.  I can't tell you how many people stopped working once they were eligible for Social Security because they would have to give back $1 for ever $2 they earn even though they would make more money if they kept working part time.  If the salaries are not high enough, the tellers may figure it is not worth working; it is better to take Social Security.  For those not old enough, you get ninety-nine weeks of unemployment as a consolation prize.

7) Christie is bluffing and there will still be simulcasting. - Keep on thinking this way.  There will be simulcasting; at Freehold Raceway and Yonkers Raceway but I doubt they are hiring. 

The way I see it, either Local 137 is playing a game of chicken they can't win or they have settled on collecting social security and unemployment.  Nothing else makes sense.  Maybe after the 'big' meeting on Thursday, we weill know more.


The_Knight_Sky said...

Good morning -

Thanks for giving me a glimmer of hope with the Dave Little article. Got to hand it to Jeff Gural if he proceeds and loses $20 million right off the bat with a new grandstand.

Of course that's not what he wanted to do but a necessary evil at this point. He may very well proceed and come out an even greater hero for not just the standardbred industry but for racing worldwide.

The next three weeks are going to be the most interesting in the history of The Sports Complex. Let's get ready to rumble !

Anonymous said...

One thing that isn't getting much attention is that why was it so easy to gain the approval of the other unions (the two that have already accepted and the one's that Gural thinks won't be a problem)? What's the dynamic with the Tellers Union that makes them different? Figure that out and you might be able to unravel this whole mess...

Anonymous said...

Christie is raising the retirement age. The tellers need to get into the pension system now. If they wait until February they may be out of a job and have to wait several years to draw their pension.

Pacingguy said...

If that is the case then they can approve the deal and then file their retirement papers. Not sure that is it.