Churchill Employees Union Threatening Derby Day Strike

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A plane banner flies over Churchill Thursday | Courtesy Berlin Rosen

Local 541, the racetrack employees union that includes Churchill Downs valets, has threatened this week to strike over a wage and contract dispute.

A press release sent on behalf of the group Friday said that, “With less than 24 hours until the 147th Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs Incorporated failed to attend a meeting early this morning to, once and for all, finalize a contract with its valets and avoid major disruptions at the Derby. The governor and mediator were notified of the meeting last night; even still, the valets were once [again] met with radio silence by their employer.”

The Greater Louisville Central Labor Council was expected to take part in a leafleting action Friday afternoon to “preview a potential Derby with valets and parimutuels on strike.”

A statement attributed to valet Ron Shelton was issued later in the day Friday: “Churchill Downs' offer to meet next week is unacceptable and insulting, especially when they canceled our last meeting abruptly and refused to acknowledge our offer to finalize a deal. The biggest day of the year is tomorrow, and Churchill Downs is suggesting we work under a substandard contract so they can drive up their profits.

Churchill Downs made over a billion dollars last year and paid its CEO over $10 million–it is the poster child for corporate greed. Since November, we have been waiting patiently for Churchill Downs to meet our request for a fair contract that allows us to take care of ourselves and our families. Our patience for excuses is wearing thin because we know Churchill Downs could pay us fairly in a second without feeling even the slightest pinch.

There is no need to delay or threaten the Derby, and it's on Churchill Downs to stop the insulting delay tactics and agree to a fair contract.”

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