UPDATED: Churchill Downs Valets Say They Will Not Strike On Derby Day

Late Friday night, officials with the SEIU Local 541 in Louisville, Ky., issued the following statement, indicating jockey valets will work as scheduled on Derby Day despite not having a contract with Churchill Downs Inc. and previously having threatened to strike. On Friday afternoon, pari-mutuel clerks scheduled to work the Derby at Churchill Downs said they would honor a picket line if the valets went on strike. With the decision by the valets to work, pari-mutuel windows at Churchill Downs should be fully staffed.

The valets who saddle the horses and ensure compliance with racing regulations at the Churchill Downs decided late Friday that they will proceed with work on Saturday at the Kentucky Derby. SEIU Local 541 issued the following statement on their decision:

“With the world’s eyes on the Kentucky Derby, we want to thank everyone for their support in the fight for livable wages, dignity, and respect for the valets at Churchill Downs. The valets have made the incredibly tough and selfless decision to put this event and the entire community above themselves, and the leadership of SEIU Local 541 respects that decision. The valets will continue to work the Kentucky Derby with the same commitment, passion, and dedication that they always have, and this union will continue to support them in their pursuit of a fair and just contract.”

Valets employed by Churchill Downs Incorporated at Churchill Downs Racetrack have not had a contract since October.  Churchill Downs refused to accept an offer by valets, represented by SEIU Local 541, to meet with a mediator Friday morning to resolve the open contracts at Churchill Downs Racetrack and Turfway Park. Turfway valets have not had a contract since April 2020.

Ronnie Shelton, an SEIU Local 541 member and veteran of the Kentucky Derby,  criticized Churchill Downs’ attempts to prolong a contract dispute that they delayed for months and ultimately risk disruptions to the Derby: “Churchill Downs’ offer to meet next week without agreeing to use a mediator, and with no assurances that they will actually move on any of their proposals, is unacceptable and insulting, especially when they canceled our last meeting abruptly and refused to acknowledge our offer to finalize a deal. The biggest day of the year is tomorrow, and Churchill Downs is suggesting we work under a substandard contract so they can drive up their profits.

Shelton continued, “Our patience for excuses is wearing thin because we know Churchill Downs could pay us fairly in a second without feeling even the slightest pinch. There is no need to delay or threaten the Derby, and it’s on Churchill Downs to stop the insulting delay tactics and agree to a fair contract.”

On Wednesday, the Greater Louisville Labor Council also pledged their support for Derby valets. President Todd Dunn said: “From the valets to the pari-mutuel clerks to the folks who put together the garland of roses, the Kentucky Derby is Union made. All of these workers are vital. With Derby just hours away, the Greater Louisville Central Labor Council is prepared to stand with these workers in any action. An injury to one is an injury to all.”

Churchill Downs Incorporated posted $1.054 billion in net revenue for 2020, and its CEO Bill Carstanjen made $10.5 million, yet the company is refusing to pay its valets at Churchill Downs Racetrack (CDRT) and Turfway Park a fair wage and provide basic workplace protections to ensure adequate staffing levels at the racetracks. The ratio of the CEO’s compensation to the median salary of the other full-time employees in 2020 ($26,000) is 404:1. In the first few seconds of opening betting, the company easily makes the $27,000 it would cost to fully cover modest raises for its entire valet workforce.

The post UPDATED: Churchill Downs Valets Say They Will Not Strike On Derby Day appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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