Belmont strike averted ahead of Triple Crown try

June 7, 2012 6:20:08 AM PDT
A union official tells Eyewitness News reporter Kristen Thorne that a tentative handshake agreement has been reached between the New York Racing Association and Local 3 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which had been threatening to strike ahead of the Belmont Stakes.

The resolution paves the way for I'll Have Another's shot at winning thoroughbred racing's first Triple Crown in more than 30 years.

About 150 union members at NYRA'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 Friday, the day before the running of the Belmont Stakes, the final jewel in the Triple Crown.

I'll Have Another is trying become the first horse to win the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978.

The major issues were overtime and the structure of the tracks' work week. 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 was seeking to immediately take away overtime for working Saturdays and Sundays, a move the union said would cut some workers' pay by 30 percent.

The agreement addresses all major economic issues, including shift schedules, benefits for active employees, as well as pension and retiree medical benefits. The contract runs through Feb. 28, 2014.

Last month, Cuomo took power away from NYRA, creating a temporary board to run racing for the next three years. The move came 18 days after NYRA fired its top executive, Charles Hayward, and its chief counsel as the state investigates why $8.5 million in winnings wasn't paid to bettors.

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