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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Just When You Thought it Was Safe to Go in the Water....

The teller's union at the Meadowlands and their contract raises the spectre of the closing of the Meadowlands once again.  As a result of two tellers (quite honestly, they are the two likely willing to represent the other tellers) launching a lawsuit against their union for agreeing on a new contract with Jeff Gural and the a judge refusing to lift the temporary restraining order, the union's new contract is once again up for debate and the state is unable to complete the lease agreement. (UPDATE:  Here is a link which says this litigation will not delay the turnover.) 

As you recall, the new management team at the Meadowlands required each union to accept a 20% pay cut to make the numbers work for an acquisition of the Meadowlands lease.  Not that the 20% pay cut would make the Meadowlands profitable; it would slow the hemorrhaging of red ink to a steady flow or red ink until the new grandstand is built.  The union, who has been forced to take a pay cut before back in the days of the Whitman administration refused to vote on the contract, either up or down at which point, union leadership decided it could approve an agreement because their membership abdicated it's responsibility by refusing to vote on the proposed contract.

Apparently, the union leadership can read the tea leaves; unfortunately, the militants in the union can't.  Should the lease be finalized without a new contract for the tellers, how long do you think it would take to impose a contract on the tellers if Gural decided to go this way?  For sure, the union would strike or be locked out over the terms of the new contract.  The question is, how long would it take for the Meadowlands to hire, train, and put new tellers on the line afterwards?  I would suggest faster than Linda Blair's head turned in The Exorcist.  Union leadership understands it, whereas there are members of the union, who a good number are already collecting or able to collect Social Security, rather take the place down with them  Public support for the union?  I suspect a good number of the public will be busy filling out applications for their jobs with the unemployment rate north of 9%. 

The plaintiffs' lawyer claims the case is about preserving the union's memberships right to vote.  This may be the case, but let me remind you the union membership refused to vote; they abdicated their own responsibility.  However, unless the tellers realize the reality of the situation, I trust they will enjoy their right to vote on standing along Paterson Plank Road in subfreezing temperatures.  Don't think I have no empathy for unions?  Far from it.  However, call it what you want but this economic downturn is our depression.  I know people who have not gotten raises or worked since 2008 but those working are happy to be working.  Taking a pay cut is never welcome, but the reality is it's a pay cut of 20% or a pay cut of 100%.

In the thoroughbred world, Richard Dutrow has won a 30 day reprieve of his ten year suspension in New York.  This is no surprise, though to the credit of Dutrow's legal team, they asked only for a 30 day reprieve where legally they could have asked for 120 days.  What amazes me is why any trainer with an alleged record such as Dutrow's, hasn't lost their stall privileges as a result of a racetrack using it's exclusionary privileges to show him the door?  I understand to do so now, it might put NYRA in some type of legal jeopardy, but then if there was a serious attempt to keep the game clean, tracks would deny questionable trainers stalls and privileges before the state has to step in.  I guess it doesn't matter what breed of racing you follow, there is always track management who talks about integrity but doesn't follow through on it.

Illinois Aftermath - Now that Governor Quinn has offered his detailed objection to the current racing bill, racing is at a crossroad.  They can help the legislature stick to the original bill and in a Hail Mary, come up with the votes the bill lacked before and override the Governor's veto; they can help form a new bill which is trimmed down and keeps the racetracks in the slot business and hope that it gets approved; or they can possibly try something new.  Seek to obtain a one or two casino licenses for the benefit of the racing industry alone where the profits would be divided proportionally between standardbred and thoroughbred interests.  No the purses would not be as big as they would have been if each track had its own slot machines, but half a loaf is better than no loaf and it would reduce the number of casino sites available.  I understand the Governor's concern now that I have read some of the stories about the gaming bill.  It seems this bill is fraught with special conditions and deals to get the votes needed passed; a bill worthy of Illinois and Chicago political lore.  The one thing racing can't do is accept a percentage of slot revenue which goes through the state's annual appropriation process; remember how long it took people to get paid purse money from the last World Trotting Derby?  The flow of revenue must come directly to racing without the state legislature getting their hands on it.

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