Jessica Chapel / Railbird

Raises? Yes!

Are you kidding me? Of all the things to complain about when it comes to New York racing, NYRA giving 327 non-union employees average pay raises of 3% is pretty far down the list. In any other year or any other industry, such a raise would be a run-of-the-mill annual cost-of-living increase. But in New York, and at NYRA, it’s an outrage! It’s arrogance! Especially because NYC OTB just closed! The New York Post, which breathlessly reports that “top managers” are getting raises and fraudulently invokes the specter of a state bailout for NYRA, gives space to grandstanding politician Assembly Racing and Wagering Committee chairman Gary Pretlow to denounce NYRA as “bloated” and the raises as “an irresponsible act.” The Sarotogian headlines an editorial today, “Raises? Really?” and calls NYRA “tone deaf.” Nick Kling writes:

Non-union employees may get their additional money, but in the process NYRA has generated enough bad feeling to guarantee it will come back to bite the association when it wants something in the future.

That’s absurd. Here’s the thing: 3% — or even the average 5.5% given to 10 employees — isn’t that much money. NYRA president Charles Hayward, who defended the raises as the first given non-union workers since January 2008, told the Blood-Horse that the raises will cost NYRA approximately $600,000 in added payroll next year. That works out to around $1835 a year (or $153 a month, $35 a week) per employee, which raises the average salary of those workers from approximately $60,000 a year to around $62,000 a year. That’s $62,000 in one of the most expensive cities in the world, and at a time of great challenge to NYRA — with NYC OTB closing last week, and the Aqueduct racino opening in 2011, NYRA needs to retain its workers (and it really needs its workers to feel good about their jobs) if it’s not only going to survive what’s ahead, but come out thriving. Giving end-of-the-year raises to the rank-and-file is a strategic and morale-boosting move at a crucial moment in the organization’s history. Sorry, but there’s nothing outrageous about that.


7 Comments

100% agreed. Been thinking the same thing as I’ve read all the outcry.

Posted by Teresa on December 14, 2010 @ 9:29 am

And in a state where that $35 extra per week will be sucked up into a massive tax hole to give the Legislature raises and health care.

Posted by Rolly Hoyt on December 14, 2010 @ 9:34 am

If I had a nickel for everytime someone feels “outraged” I’d be rich.

Posted by Robert on December 14, 2010 @ 9:58 am

You’re certainly correct. A 3 percent raise every two years isn’t enough to keep up with the cost of living. (I would know; my last 10 years in the newspaper business I averaged about 1.5 percent a year.) And that’s especially in New York City.

Much about NYRA and particularly the NYC OTB needs serious fixing. But a 3 percent raise for average employees who haven’t received raises in two years is a drop in the bucket.

I could see not raising executive pay, both for appearances’ sake and justifiably, as the management clearly hasn’t been meritorious.

Posted by Glenn Craven on December 14, 2010 @ 10:48 am

As to the ordinary non-union employees., I totally agree. But Charlie, and NYRA generally, should have had the common sense to realize that raises for the top executives would attract exactly the sort of reaction that you cite. It wouldn’t have been much of a sacrifice to exempt, say, those earning more than $200,000 from the raises. That’s a number of people one could count on the fingers of two hands, and it would have totally avoided the public-relations gaffe.

Do you remember when NYRA tried to resist giving financial info to the state comptroller earlier this year? Another case of a tin ear, and one in which NYRA ultimately had to backtrack. Who’s advising these guys on public relations?

Posted by Steve Zorn on December 14, 2010 @ 10:50 am

Steve, you make a fair point about how NYRA might have avoided the outcry that followed this news. Holding off on raises to execs would have played better — although I’m not so sure politicians still wouldn’t have tried to spin outrage out of ordinary workers at NYRA getting a break (just when NYC OTB closed! as though that’s even relevant). As Teresa said on Twitter, “difficult to argue with that point, though abhorrent to kowtow to NY pol idiocy.”

Posted by Jessica on December 14, 2010 @ 12:59 pm

Or maybe Hayward could have quit and made the NYRA find a new chief willing to work for less than half-a-mil with the high likelihood he won’t see it increased in the next two years.

Maybe Rayburn would take the job at that rate after he dissolves NYCOTB.

Seriously, where do you draw the line? NYRA should just eat the PR hit, and laugh to the bank when they get their new teletheaters put in, and laugh when Spitzer – the guy who put them in most of this soup – gets his show canceled.

Posted by Rolly Hoyt on December 15, 2010 @ 2:27 pm