Pari-Mutuel clerks reject Gural's offer
April 14, 2011
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Jeff Gural's efforts to lease the Meadowlands and keep the track open for harness racing may have ended Thursday night. Security personnel at the Meadowlands voted Thursday evening to accept an offer from Gural that called for wage concessions, but the pari-mutuel clerks refused to even cast ballots on Gural's proposal, effectively rejecting it. According to a source, the union meeting for the vote by the pari-mutuel clerks was contentious and state police were called in to maintain order.
Thursday afternoon Gural told harnessracing.com that if the union employees didn't accept his proposal, he expected "the place will close."
Gural asked the union employees to agree to a 20 percent pay cut when their contract expires on Feb. 1, 2012. Until that time they would have been paid $24 an hour. Although Gural asked for wage concessions, he agreed to keep health benefits in place for two years.
According to other sources, late Thursday afternoon Gural made a last-minute effort to persuade the clerks that he would treat them fairly in the future, distributing a letter that included letters from union leaders at Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs.
Union leader Bob Liguori explained the reason for the no-vote by the pari-mutuel workers to John Brennan, writing for The Record newspaper on www.northjersey.com. “We just can’t afford to take this deal, and we didn’t want to give it a level of importance by voting on it,” said Liguori, manager of Laborers International Union of North America Local 137, which represents the tellers and other track workers.
Liguori said the vote to not even consider Gural's offer was "overwhelming." Asked if the membership feared that Christie would virtually shutdown the track in response to their vote, Liguori said, “They didn’t seem worried about that. As for me, I’m just waiting to hear what the governor wants to do.”
Click here to read Brennan's story at northjersey.com.
The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority had prepared for bad news, drafting press statements should the unions vote no and the track's closure become imminent. The NJSEA gave employees the required 60-day termination notice but not until March, which means employees may have jobs until mid-May.
The Meadowlands was scheduled to reopen for harness racing on May 7.