The New York Times reported Wednesday that the State Labor Department has been investigating poor working conditions suffered by Saratoga Race Course backstretch workers (including grooms, hot walkers, and night watchmen) and those at other race tracks — conditions which include sleeping quarters infested with bed bugs:
The backstretch workers are employed by individual trainers, who typically train horses for several thoroughbred owners. Some workers told investigators that they were paid just $5.06 an hour, far less than the state minimum wage of $7.15 an hour, Ms. Smith said.
In addition, workers told of being bitten by bedbugs in the racetrack’s dormitories and of eating at soup kitchens because they could not afford the restaurants in Saratoga Springs.
It sounds like bed bug problems are not isolated to this race track, either. The Times article later noted:
Lauro Ventura, 61, a groom for 15 years, said in a telephone interview on Wednesday that living conditions at the track were bad. “Three or four of us sleep in a room that’s 10 by 10,” he said in Spanish. “Some guys sleep on air mattresses, some buy little cots, and some just sleep on the floor.”
Bedbugs are a big problem in the dorms, he added. “A lot of the workers bring their sleeping bags from Belmont, where the bedbug problems are much worse,” he said.