Illinois Proposes Law to Prevent Labor Lockouts At Fairmount Park

Horse racing fans celebrated yesterday like a gambler who just hit the daily double.

A last-minute deal was reached to allow Fairmount Park to host 52 days of live racing in 2010, as opposed to the three days the track was stuck with after a prolonged labor dispute.

It's not exactly a full schedule (just a few years ago, the track hosted 130+ days of racing) but at the very least it means the return of Horse Hooky Tuesday, the RFT's Best Sports Bargain of 2009.

The new season begins April 27 and ends August 24.

Perhaps the bigger news, though, is the bill that was introduced yesterday by lawmakers from Alton and Collinsville to prevent a lockout like the one Fairmount experienced this year from ever happening again.

Here's a good overview of the proposal from the Belleville News-Democrat:
According to the bill introduced by state Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Collinsville, and state Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton, the bill would amend the Illinois Horse Racing Act of 1975 so that "neither legislation passed by the General Assembly nor a collective bargaining agreement between the racing board and its employees can be a condition, or a factor, in determining the number of racing dates awarded to the race track."

"If Fairmount Park has a labor dispute or any company has a labor dispute, there are methods and redress," Hoffman said. "You go through a grievance procedure, you go through arbitration. You don't take a regulated entity who has nothing to do with those employees. They're not employees of Fairmount."

Rep. Tom Holbrook, D-Belleville, said he and fellow local lawmakers are willing to work the racing board, but the board in turn has to be willing to work with them.

"People have to realize that Fairmount Park is the last live racing venue in the state of Illinois outside of the Chicago suburbs, and we think that it's in the best interest of the racing board, whose mission is to promote live horse racing and keeping this track open and viable is an intricate part of that mission," Holbrook said. "And we are going to try to do that in the legislation to make it clear to the racing board that we think there are some better ways to address this"
Click here to read the whole article, which also includes the nuts and bolts of the agreement between Fairmount's union representatives and the Illinois Racing Board.

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