Push underway to unionize Saratoga Race Course backstretch workers

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A local labor union is saying backstretch workers at Saratoga Race Course need to be treated like human beings.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers wants to unionize the men and women who take care of the horses.

IBEW claims to have the signatures of 675 backstretch workers who are interested in unionizing.

Those who look after those workers are a little suspicious of those claims.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers shared pictures Tuesday, which they said show the conditions of the dorms on the track’s backstretch. They also claim – though the pictures don’t show – that there are rats and bedbugs.

At a news conference outside the track on Wednesday, IBEW says they’re eager to unionize backstretch workers.

Though they don’t want to get into the debate about a union, the backstretch employee service team, the non-profit that cares for the workers, takes exception at the union’s claims that the workers don’t get proper healthcare.

They point to the brand new medical facility, with free healthcare, and a new childcare center as examples of how they’re a model for tracks around the country. The union says that’s not enough.

Hear the union talk more about what they say must be done by watching the video of Mark Mulholland’s story.

The New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association released this statement:

The New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (NYTHA) is incredibly proud of the services we offer to backstretch workers. First and foremost, we partner with NYRA to fund two health care clinics, one at Belmont Park operated by Northwell Health and one in Saratoga Springs, operated by Saratoga Hospital. In both locations, health care is completely free to our backstretch community.

There is no doubt that employing agricultural workers in urban and suburban environments is challenging – these are jobs for hard-working, determined men and women, many of them immigrants. NYTHA has been the nation’s leader in worker safety and supporting backstretch workers. The services we provide are incomparable to any other racetrack setting in the country. NYTHA spends almost $2 million every year on programs for our workers including:

·       Dental care.

·       Vision care.

·       Scholarship Program for Worker Children.

·       Subsidized Day Care.

·       Immigration and Legal Services.

·       Substance Abuse Treatment.

In addition, NYTHA has worked closely with both NYRA and the Franchise Oversight Board to modernize the dormitories at Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course, resulting in over $40 million in new construction.

Uninformed advocates can talk the talk but NYTHA’s staff and affiliates are out walking the walk every day, providing the sort of support and service that makes a difference in people’s lives.