(NEW YORK) — A labor dispute threatens to scratch I’ll Have Another’s triple crown try at the Belmont Stakes in New York on Saturday.
Workers for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3 have been authorized to go on strike at any time after they were unable to reach an agreement with the New York Racing Association regarding scheduling and wage disputes.
The NYRA, which has been in contract negotiations with the union for two years, called the lingering threat of a strike “troubling” and “extremely self-serving” in a statement issued to ABC News and questioned the timing before I’ll Have Another’s historic triple crown attempt.
I’ll Have Another could become the first horse to win the triple crown in 34 years.
“NYRA employs approximately 130 Local 3 maintenance workers who believe their demands are more important than an historic day for 100,000 fans,” the statement read.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo seized control of the scandal-plagued NYRA last month after the president and general counsel were fired following state regulators’ allegations that they knew the NYRA had shortchanged bettors by $8.5 million over 15 months.
If a strike is called, nearly 80 workers who maintain the track at the prestigious grounds and place horses in their starting gates would be missing from Saturday’s highly anticipated race.
More than 100,000 fans are expected to flock to the Long Island race track, which has been called “The Test of Champions.” Millions more will be watching on TV.
At issue is a dispute over wages. The NYRA’s last best offer was a 30 percent reduction in wages and benefits, said Vincent McElroen, financial secretary of Local 3.
McElroen said NYRA has also unilaterally changed the workweek for union members at its three tracks from Monday to Friday, to Wednesday through Sunday, effectively stripping them of the overtime they used to earn for working weekend events. No races are run at NYRA tracks on Mondays and Tuesday.
“These are the changes they did without agreement to the union,” he said. “We’re always hopeful [there won’t be a strike], but they have taken the position ‘it’s our way or the highway.'”
McElroen said the NYRA is using speculation of a strike before the Belmont Stakes to act like Union 3 members are “the bad guys.”
“They’re feeling threatened right now because of the strike authorization and that’s just natural,” he said. “[But] they’re trying to pin it we’re the bad guys…. But that’s all smoke and mirrors.”
If the workers don’t strike and Belmont occurs on Saturday, I’ll Have Another could be the first horse to win the Triple Crown since Affirmed who won all three jewels in 1978.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Kathryn Vasel, CNN
Magdala Louissaint, KPVI