01/03/2007 1:00AM

Philly jockeys can't join union


The Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board has rejected a petition from jockeys at Philadelphia Park seeking to join a union, stating that jockeys are independent contractors and not employees of the racetrack.

The ruling, issued in a letter on Dec. 22, states that "horse jockeys have been determined to be independent contractors rather than employees. Accordingly, the petitioned-for jockeys do not have organizational rights as employees under the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Act."

The determination is a setback to the Philadelphia Park riders, who were seeking to join the International Chapter of Journeymen Horseshoers and Allied Trades. Led by longtime rider Tony Black, the jockeys petitioned the board to be represented by the union after failing to secure additional catastrophic insurance coverage from Philadelphia Park.

Federal and state labor boards have consistently ruled that jockeys are independent contractors and therefore cannot engage in collective bargaining. Under the current system, jockeys are considered freelance employees of owners because they are hired by the owners on a race-by-race basis and paid out of the owner's pocket or a share of the owner's purse.

Black said he could not comment on the ruling on Wednesday, referring questions to Gloria Larrondo, the president of the union's Local 97. Larrondo did not return a phone call.