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Golden Gate Fields workers avert strike with short-term deal

A possible strike by workers for opening day at Golden Gate Fields Thursday was averted under a temporary agreement between the union representing the workers and the facility’s owner.  

According to John Valenzuela, president of SEIU Local 280, the union representing parimutuel workers agreed to a short-term agreement with the Stronach Group, which owns the Golden Gate Fields and the Santa Anita race tracks. The temporary agreement runs from Aug. 22 through Oct. 2, and operates under the prior collective bargaining agreement, which expired July 18.

The temporary agreement adds two new amendments: no wage increase and no mandatory staffing, Valenzuela said:

“We’ve basically come to this short-term agreement so that the Golden Gate Fields can run, and it’s what’s good for racing at this time. I’m not happy that we have to make these concessions.”

Valenzuela continued:

“Their main thing is the manning provision. We’ve come to the point where we were going give them no manning provision for this short time to see how it works, to see how it plays out.”

On July 18, Local 280 negotiated new contracts with all other employers, except Golden Gate Fields and Santa Anita race tracks. At the crux of all negotiations was the mandatory staffing. Though other tracks agreed to mandatory staffing, as well as a three percent wage increase, there were staffing cuts of 10 percent at most other tracks, with Los Alamitos seeing a 17 percent cut at night.

According to a press release by Valenzuela, eliminating the manning clause at Golden Gate Fields and the Santa Anita race tracks could mean 20 to 30 percent of jobs could be lost:

“We’re doing everything … to make sure that it comes to an agreement so that our people are working. I’m doing everything I can to do that. I think we can come to an agreement while working with each other.”

According to Valenzuela, negotiations with the Stronach Group will resume September 10. Valenzuela added that if the Stronach Group can give them “a certain amount” of workers they anticipate they will be using and can stick to that, then they have “a shot to move forward”:

“ … and not take a position where we have to go further with the labor dispute. We don’t want to go with a labor dispute but if you put us in a position where we’re going to lose so many jobs, and you’re affecting people’s lives, well, then we have no choice but to take that position.”   

The Stronach Group did not return SFBay’s call for comment.

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