LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Surprise inspections at four California horse tracks found stable workers living in unsanitary conditions and not being paid overtime.

State and federal labor officials on Wednesday inspected Santa Anita, Hollywood Park and Los Alamitos, all near Los Angeles, and Golden Gate Fields near San Francisco, the Los Angeles Times reported in Thursday's editions.

It was the first such inspection at the tracks in more than 10 years. The state labor commissioner's office and the U.S. Department of Labor will begin auditing payrolls after the initial reviews are done this week.

The stable workers, who are not unionized, eat and sleep in small equipment rooms next to the horses. They feed, saddle, bandage and prepare the horses for races and tend to them when they are ill. Most of the workers are immigrants.

One 20-year-old groom, who was not identified, said he makes about $250 a week for more than 50 hours of work.

The horse racing industry last month lost its 13-year-old exemption from paying stable workers overtime, and the Service Employees International Union has sought to organize the workers.

Proposed legislation that would allow California's stable workers to unionize and would put stables under the jurisdiction of the California Employee Housing Act was submitted to a state Senate committee Wednesday.

Horse racing is the only industry exempt from state housing laws, which establish minimum space, ventilation and safety requirements. If the stables were included under the act, track operators would have to prove they were in compliance before they could be licensed to hold races.

The bill also would require horse trainers, who employ the stable workers, to file payroll records with the state.


On the Net:

California Labor Commissioner: http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/dlse.html

U.S. Department of Labor: http://www.dol.gov/