Mayor William Donald Schaefer failed today in a longshot attempt to help settle the strike by employees against Maryland's three major racetracks.
Immediately after the two-hour meeting broke up in the Mayor's office, Pimlico Race Course revealed it is ready to "take its case to the employees" in hope they will return to work.
Sander Wise, legal counsel for Pimlico, Bowie and Laurel, announced the tracks have retained Edward Spector of Cherry Hill, N.J., as their labor consultant.
Al Akman, president of Local 692, Retail Store Employees Union, said today, "They want to open the track and work with scabs. If they try, it will be rather messy. They want to break the union. That's been their intent all along, to get rid of us and make a profit at the same time by milking some sweet, new concessions from the racing commission."
Wise said the track intends to "let the message to the people (its employees on strike)" with Spector's help.
Chick Lang, Pimlico's general manager, contended that "this continues to be Mr. Akman's strike. His ego is involved. It's personal, with him, and I don't think he's speaking for our employees. They want to go back to work more and more with every day that's slipping by. We're running out of time."
Pimlico was scheduled to open March 21. The strike began March 12 at Bowie. The Preakness Stakes is to be run May 21. Pimlico officials have indicated the race will be transferred, and the entire meeting (through May 31) canceled, if the strike is not settled by April 15-18.
"We'll decide on our next course of action, but I believe we'll have to wait and see what happens Tuesday at the public hearing to be held in Baltimore by the racing commission," Lang said.
The tracks threatened to employ new, non-union workers two years ago at Bowie when members of an independent union were on strike for four days. Applications for work were accepted. The union agreed to a two-year contract the following day.
"We won't be settling for $2.50 (a day) and $1 raises this time, like they did then," Akman said. "The track made a profit out of that strike by going to the racing commission and getting three more exactas. This time they're all out of extra exactas or more racing dates. Now they're talking about getting the commission's approval for increased costs for programs, admissions or reserved seats.
"They're tough guys," Akman added. "They haven't moved one cent in their offer. They're still at $1.50, $2 and $2. They told the mayor today they wouldn't move one cent. I'm still the only guy making new offers (from a $12.50 package down to $9.73). I've made three moves in three days, to na avail."
Lang disagreed with Akman's description of the negotiations.
"He's misleading the press and our employees, who are his union members. He's misleading everybody," Lang charged. "He is dealing in half-truths. He doesn't care about Maryland racing, the Preakness, the fact that he's paralyzing an industry of 5,000 people out of work. He only cares about Akman."
James Williams, the federal mediator who attended today's meeting, said no talks were scheduled at last until Monday, when he would call both parties.