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Monday, July 03, 2006
Jesse Jackson to Organize Jockey Union?

The New York Times has an interesting story on the recruitment of the Reverend Jesse Jackson to organize the Jockeys Guild, possibly paving the way for collective bargaining in the horse racing industry. The Guild has been in financial disarray for several years. In 2004, as Greg reported here, the Guild was sued by a member after the Guild allowed its disability insurance policy to lapse. Jackson will be joined as "national co-manager" of the Guild by Dwight Manley, a former rare coin dealer and sports agent to the likes of the Mail Man and the Worm. According to the Times story:
Jackson said that he had little knowledge of the horse racing industry, but he said that would not impede his efforts to improve working conditions and benefits for jockeys.

"I know the principles of organizing," said Jackson, who then referred to Martin Luther King Jr. "Dr. King didn't have to follow around garbage workers to know his role was to motivate garbage workers to stand up and fight for the right to organize."

* * *

"I have met with jockeys who have been injured, and it's like someone just threw them away," Jackson said. "They have no retirement package. No benefit package. What are they supposed to do?"

Jackson said the Jockeys' Guild should be viewed no differently than the Major League Baseball Players Association or other groups representing athletes that negotiate directly with owners or league representatives and have the right to strike.

"Jockeys should have the right of collective bargaining," Jackson said. "They should have retirement and health benefits and be entitled to revenue sharing. Terming them as independent contractors is just a scheme to deny them the rights of collective bargaining."
This will be an interesting organizing drive to watch. Since jockeys are currently viewed as independent contractors working for the owners of the horses, rather than the racing circuits or the race sponsors, they will likely need to convince horse owners to bargain as a multi-employer bargaining unit. However, my perception is that horse ownership (or at least, ownership of top competitors) is more fluid than, say, the ownership of professional sports teams. As a result, horse owners might have less upside or incentive to agree to bargain on a multi-employer basis.


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