ALBANY, N.Y. (CN) – “There are no minorities in the union at the Saratoga Race Course,” claims an ex-worker who says he was forced to work 90-hour weeks, not allowed to join the union, paid less than white workers he supervised, and subjected to racist comments from bosses. He sued the New York Racing Association, which has “an exclusive franchise from New York State to conduct horse racing and pari-mutuel betting at the Aqueduct, Belmont Park and Saratoga racetracks,” and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3, in Federal Court.
Jose Garcia says he worked at Saratoga for 8 years before being made supervisor of the barn crew. The $2 an hour he received with his promotion bumped his hourly wage up to $11.50. He says the white union member whom he replaced had made twice that amount.
“Being a member of the union would have given plaintiff higher wages, health insurance, and the opportunity to contribute to a pension plan,” Garcia says. “Plaintiff was never given membership in the union. The first two years he tried to get in the union, plaintiff was not given any reason why he could not join.
“Then this year the union said plaintiff couldn’t join because he didn’t have a driver’s license.”
Garcia says was given a staff nearly half the size of his predecessor’s, though the all-white staff did “very little work.” He said he often found them sleeping or playing video games. He adds that some of his were paid more than he was, though they had less experience and less seniority.
He says his “duties were so extensive that plaintiff had to, during the race season (late July to Labor Day), work about fifteen hours per day, six days a week. On Tuesdays, plaintiff worked eight hours per day. He worked seven days a week during the race season.” (Parentheses in complaint.)
After his bosses authorized him to hire four new workers, Garcia says, “They were doing a great job, but 2 ½ weeks after they started, management fired them. They were Chileans.”
Garcia said his boss told him he didn’t want “any more fucking Mexicans.”
Short-staffed and left with “old and malfunctioning equipment,” Garcia says, he was fired after enduring years of harassment from his bosses and other employees, who called him a “stupid spic” and a “dirty Mexican.”
In addition to the NYRA and the IBEW, Garcia sued his former bosses, Peter Goulet, Chuck Dwyer, Richard Koch and David Smuckler. He demands damages for lost wages, violations of civil rights and human rights, emotional harm and retaliation.
He is represented by Phillip Steck with Cooper Erving & Savage.
The racetrack in Saratoga Springs held its first race in 1863, making it the oldest organized sporting venue in the United States.