Jessica Chapel / Railbird

Workers

Racing’s Working Class

Unappreciated. Endangered.

PowerCap responding a New York Times piece on the Big A:

I contend that Aqueduct holds a different type of charm. Certainly in this world there are diverse experiences and tastes — especially in New York. Aqueduct is a remnant of old working class New York …

The New York Times on NYC OTB workers facing their future:

After that, she said, she would have to find another job soon because merely maintaining her health insurance would cost almost $500 a month. “I’m good at everything,” she said, rattling off her qualifications. “I can serve food. I can run a register. I can stack boxes. I can baby-sit kids.”

From John Scheinman’s report on uncertainty in Maryland:

“I think it’s kind of a shame what they’ve been doing so far,” said jockey Forest Boyce…. “The most amazing thing about this industry is they employ all levels of education, from people who just got out of jail to people that graduate from Yale.”

The Washington Post on the last day of racing at Laurel:

There are 85 trainers with 969 stalls at Bowie and 68 trainers with 1,059 stalls at Laurel Park. “There’s going to be a lot of unemployed, homeless, helpless people with nowhere to go,” says Pickett, 30, who was one semester shy of a law degree when she chose to work with horses full time.

If Churchill CEO Robert Evans’ 10-year business model for racing is right, we’ll be reading more of these stories in the near future as the industry contracts.

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.