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A MEADOWLANDS CLERK SPEAKS OUT

A MEADOWLANDS CLERK SPEAKS OUT
By Bill Finley
Harnessracingupdate.com
April 24, 2011

A veteran mutuel clerk at the Meadowlands, Jim (not his real name) is in a tough spot. He knows that his choices will likely come down to taking a healthy pay cut he cannot afford to take or losing his job all together.

He says if given the chance he would vote to accept the 20 percent pay cuts potential Meadowlands owner Jeff Gural has asked his union to take, but would do so reluctantly and not without sympathy for fellow union members who are unwilling to go along with Gural’s plan.

Jim, who asked that his real name not be used, believes in the end the clerks will not settle with Gural.

Gural has said that if he cannot come to an agreement with the union representing the track’s mutuel clerks he will drop his pursuit of the Meadowlands. Gural appears to be the only person interested in taking over the track, which is facing closure.

“Put a gun to my head right now and I couldn’t tell you how this is going to go,” Jim said. “I think it is
a 50-50 split. The vote (not to vote on Gural’s offer) was like 114-12 the first time. I think a lot of people
have changed their minds since then, but probably not enough to pass this.

“Personally, I think we should let the guy take over and see what happens. That’s the sentiment among a lot of tellers. My situation can’t be any worse than it is now.”

Jim said many of the mutuel clerks are still smarting from a deal that was worked out many years ago in which they not only agreed to cuts but feel they were lied to.

“You still have a lot of people to sell on this,” the teller said. “A lot of the guys who have been here a long time are going to be tough to crack. They’ve been screwed once and they don’t want to get screwed again. They’d rather take their unemployment and go off into the sunset.

“The bottom line is the people who are higher up in seniority have been screwed before,” Jim said. “If they take this pay cut they’re going to be making what they made 20, 25 years ago and they don’t want to do that.”

The mutuel clerk said that many members of the union are still having a tough time trusting Gural, who has promised, among other things, to maintain as many union jobs as possible, retain benefits and not cut back on the hours clerks work per week.

“We don’t work enough as it is.” Jim said. “The tellers all feel that he is not going to put us to work. That’s the main concern--that he’s going to privatize and knock us down to one or two shifts a week. We’re worried we’re not going to get enough work and that we’re not going to be able to keep our seniority.”

The teller said there is a rumor going around that Gural will go ahead and lease the Meadowlands even if he does not make a deal with the union and then replace the current tellers with replacement workers who will be paid less.

“Supposedly there’s going to be another vote next week,” Jim said. “I hear that if Gural does not get a yes vote from the tellers then Christie will shut the place down and Gural can then open it up at any time and have a job fair. He’ll pay new clerks $70 a shift. He wants the place. He’s a horse guy and he really wants this to work.”

Jim said he doesn’t see any way he, personally, comes out of this situation a winner.

“This job is important to me,” he said. “I have a family and family responsibilities. I need to work and I can’t get by on two or three shifts a week. I understand what Gural is saying, but he needs to understand that I have a family to support.”

GURAL SAYS PROGRESS BEING MADE IN UNION TALKS; CODEY MEETS WITH CLERKS

In an email to Harness Racing Update yesterday, Jeff Gural said that his attorney is talking to representatives of the mutuel clerks union, which he construed as a positive sign.

“I think progress is being made with the tellers as my attorney has been communicating with the teller’s attorney to confirm certain promises I made at the meeting last Wednesday,” Gural wrote. “I consider that a good sign as much of the opposition misinterpreted our plan for the future of the Meadowlands.

New Jersey State Senator Richard Codey, a horse racing fan and one of the state’s most influential politicians, met with clerks yesterday at the Meadowlands. Codey has involved himself in the Meadowland situation in hopes that he can help broker a deal between Gural and the unions.
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