LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Churchill Downs Inc. filed a lawsuit on Thursday in hopes of avoiding hiring union workers for maintenance and housekeeping roles at its 11-month-old Derby City Gaming facility in Louisville.

The Louisville-based corporation is asking a federal judge to overturn an arbitrator’s decision holding that Churchill Downs should have offered certain kinds of blue collar work at Derby City Gaming to members of Laborers International Union of North America Local 576, the union that represents maintenance workers at the company’s historic racetrack on Central Avenue.

Instead, Churchill Downs outsourced the Derby City Gaming work to C&W Facility Services, according to the lawsuit.

After the union challenged the subcontracting, arbitrator Mark C. Travis ruled on July 24 that Churchill Downs should have offered the maintenance and housekeeping work to LIUNA members and ordered the company to compensate the workers for lost wages.

“Churchill Downs decided that binding arbitration means nothing to them,” said Cornelius Cotton, president of LIUNA Local 576, in an interview on Monday. “The way I feel, we will have our day and Churchill Downs will pay the members what they owe … They have all types of folks in there doing the work that our members are supposed to be doing.”

Cornelius Cotton LIUNA Local 576

Cornelius Cotton, president of LIUNA Local 576 in Louisville, Aug. 26, 2019

Cotton could not estimate how many union members would be offered jobs or owed back wages under the arbitrator’s decision. Churchill Downs declined to comment.

In the lawsuit, the company said the arbitrator’s ruling was rooted in his “personal sense of industrial justice rather than the terms” of the company’s contract with the labor union. There are about 70 workers in the bargaining unit, according to the lawsuit.

Derby City Gaming is a casino-like facility with 1,000 historical horse racing terminals, which are made to resemble slot machines while offering pari-mutuel wagering on old horse races. (Whether historical horse racing is actually pari-mutuel wagering is the subject of a nine-year legal battle that the state Supreme Court will soon take up).

Churchill Downs spent $62 million to open the facility in September 2018, and executives have touted its 41 percent earnings margin on investor conference calls in recent months.

A former harness racing track, the facility at 4520 Poplar Level Road is considered an extension of Churchill Down’s historic racetrack at 700 Central Avenue for purposes of the collective bargaining agreement.

Reach reporter Chris Otts at 502-585-0822, cotts@wdrb.com, on Twitter or on Facebook. Copyright 2019 WDRB News. All rights reserved.

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Chris Otts reports for WDRB.com about business and economic topics, higher education and local / state government. He joined WDRB News in 2013 after seven years with The Courier-Journal. Got a tip? Chris is at 502-585-0822 and cotts@wdrb.com.