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Valets Won't Strike On Derby Day

Authentic, the 2020 Kentucky winner, adorned with his Garland of Roses on Sept. 5, 2020.
Authentic, the 2020 Kentucky winner, adorned with his Garland of Roses on Sept. 5, 2020.

The valets who care for the horses at Churchill Downs announced early Saturday that they will not strike.

SEIU Local 541 issued a statement thanking everyone who supported them.

"The valets have made the incredibly tough and selfless decision to put this event and the entire community above themselves, and the leadership of SEIU Local 541 respects that decision," the union said. "The valets will continue to work the Kentucky Derby with the same commitment, passion, and dedication that they always have, and this union will continue to support them in their pursuit of a fair and just contract.”

The union has about 400 members, and around 200 of them usually work the Derby.

Attorney David Suetholtz, who represents the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 541, told WFPL the union has been trying to negotiate its three-year contract since last July for the valets at Churchill Downs, and since last February for those at Turfway Park in Florence.

Churchill Downs parimutuel clerks had announced their support for the valets and vowed not to cross the picket line if they decided to strike, which they said would have forced the closure of hundreds of betting stations.

Valets saddle and unsaddle the horses, and make sure each horse is carrying the same weight.

Kate Howard is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.

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