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Churchill Downs Valets opt Against Strike at the Kentucky Derby Day

Date posted: April 30, 2021, 07:20 h.

Last updated: April 30, 2021, 09:39 h.

Steve Bittenbender

UPDATE (12:30 am ET 5/1) - In an early Saturday morning email the local SEIU 541 announced butlers this means she will go to work at Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby, ending any possibility of a strike for now.

Looking at the world at the Kentucky Derby, we want to thank everyone for their support in the struggle for decent living conditions, dignity and respect for the lackeys at Churchill Downs, ”reads the union statement. “The valets made an incredibly difficult and disinterested decision to put this event and the community above themselves, and Local SEIU 541 leadership respects this decision. The valets will continue to work for the Kentucky Derby with the same dedication, passion and dedication as ever, and this union will continue to support them in their quest for a fair and fair contract. "

PREVIOUSLY NOTIFIED (10:20 p.m. ET 4/30) - If Churchill Downs butlers decide to go on strike on Saturday, they will not be alone. On Friday night, on the eve of the Kentucky Derby, pari-mutuel track officials said they would not cross the picket line of their union colleagues.

Churchill Downs strike
Supporters of Churchill Downs butlers stood on the sidewalk in front of the track in Louisville. On Friday afternoon, leaflets were handed out to customers entering the track. The newspaper reported that the valets, who have not had an agreement with the track since October, may go on strike on Saturday. (Photo: Greater Louisville Central Labor Council / Facebook)

With officials honoring a possible strike on Derby Day, this means the Louisville track could be without 200 officials to place bets on the biggest day of the year.

"Substitute officials are in full solidarity with the butlers who have been patiently waiting for a fair contract since last fall" said Don Vest, chairman of the board of Service Employees International Union Local 541. Local represents the approximately two dozen servants who work on the track.

SEIU officials gave the local permission to strike earlier this week.

The valets were working without a contract as their track contract expired last October. The same association represents the valets at Churchill's Turfway Park in Florence, Ky. That contract expired a year ago, just months after Churchill acquired ownership from JACK Entertainment.

The footmen prepare the jockeys and horses for racing, and look after the saddles and jockeys' gear. As the races are seasonal by location, many run on several different tracks throughout the year.

As they were working on Friday, members of Greater Louisville's Central Labor Council stood in front of the track handing out leaflets for visitors entering the track. Leaflets informed fans of what could happen if there was a strike.

Churchill Downs asks for a meeting next week

Churchill Downs offered the valets, pronounced a hard "t", which was deemed the best and final contract deal last week. Track officials did not meet with union representatives on Friday. However, track officials have reportedly told the union that they would be ready to continue discussions next week.

Union members rejected this overture.

Churchill Downs' offer to meet next week without agreeing to use a mediator and without assurances that he will actually take any action is unacceptable and offensive, especially when they suddenly canceled our last meeting and refused to recognize our offer to finalize the deal, "the member said in a statement. SEIU Local 541 Ronnie Shelton.

Track officials declined to comment on the decision of pari-mutuel officials on Friday night.

The parties disagree on wages, pensions and staff

There are several issues that need to be resolved between the valets and Churchill Downs.

The first is the payment. The valets want the same rate at Churchill Downs and Turfway. They want a three-year contract starting with $ 120 per day. They currently earn $ 109 daily at Churchill and $ 16.77 hours at Turfway. The company offered that Churchill wages would remain the same for the first year and for the 25 - cent hourly wage at Turfway.

The valets also want Churchill to raise contributions to the workers' pension fund. At Turfway, butlers receive $ 5 a day in retirement, a premium that has not changed at 22 years. Track officials did not propose any changes to the pensions, but did propose to increase leave bills.

In addition, the valets want Churchill to guarantee employment at certain levels, including 13 for most racing days and 20 for the Breeders' Cup.

Churchill Downs has said it has no intention of cutting back on footmen. However, they said it depends on the number of horses running on the track.

The company also noted in a statement earlier this week that its payroll would put the footmen at the top of the track with similar race schedules in the region. He also offered special rates for the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby.

They also say that the lackeys have the opportunity for jockeys to earn extra work, and the income will increase thanks to the increase of the handbag for the spring gathering.

Company officials also commented in union comments on a path generating revenues in excess of $ 41 billion last year was misleading as Churchill Downs Inc. reported a net loss of nearly $ 82 million last year.

Potential impact on Derby betting

Although company officials did not comment, the disruption meant that a lack of pari-mutuel betting officials could cut back bets at the Kentucky Derby, arguably the biggest day of the year for Churchill Downs.

However, track betting is only a fraction of the total trader. In 2019, when a record $ 250.9 million was staked on the Derby Day card, only $ 21. 3 million was staked on the track.

Churchill Downs also has banks of ATM-like machines to accept bets, and the track could encourage fans to bet on races using the TwinSpires online platform for Advanced Deposit Betting (ADW). However, ADW bets would affect how much money riders would get off the track. Riders receive a much larger share of the payout from bets placed on the track.

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