Striking Out - Page 2

Stadium concession workers — without a contract since 2010, denied tip jars, some paid less than minimum wage — aren't sharing in the San Francisco Giants' success and rising prices

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The workers who sell beers and hawk sodas at Giants games want a new contract.
ILLUSTRATION BY JOHN HERSEY

Even Centerplate says only the Giants can offer job security to concession workers. If Centerplate goes out of business or loses its contract, the concession workers will likely lose their jobs, which is why they're advocating for a succesorship clause that would guarantee their employment in that scenario.

When The Guardian inquired with the Giants office about the issue, its spokesperson once again responded, "This is an issue between the workers and Centerplate, not the Giants."

But with the Giants controlling who runs its concession and how much they charge the fans, is Centerplate just an easy scapegoat for squeezing more profits from workers? Because on the subject of health benefits and wages, the two camps are separated by a wide chasm.

In order to qualify for healthcare, the workers need to work at least 10 games in a month (they're eligible for health insurance only from June 1 through December 1) to have coverage a month later, which means that the health and well-being of the 750 workers hinges on Major League Baseball's scheduler.

Workers almost got denied coverage for August because June only had nine games, but they ended up qualifying because they worked a private event at AT&T Park for the biotechnology firm Genentech.

Yet Centerplate wants to raise the number of qualifying games to 12, while Local 2 wants to keep it at 10 and grant healthcare coverage to workers who work every game in months with less than 10 games.

On wages, Centerplate has offered 25-cent increase in hourly pay, no retro raises for the years worked under the expired contract, and a $500 bonus. Though Local 2 has not put out an exact number on their wage demands, its spokesperson says Centerplate's wage offers are beyond unacceptable; they're insulting.

Centerplate's main message in this quarrel is its insistence that the concessions workers are among the highest paid in the nation and that they accrue more benefits than most part-time workers. But the workers say that claim is misleading given the high cost of living in the Bay Area.

"If we were living in Dallas, Texas, I'd say yeah, we're probably overpaid. But we're not," Anthony Wendelburger, who has been a cook for three years, told us.

The Bay Area is among the most expensive metropolitan areas in the nation. Last month, the business consultant Kiplinger published a list of the top 10 most expensive cities in the U.S. San Francisco was third behind Honolulu and New York, with nearby San Jose in fourth and Oakland eighth.

The average concessions worker makes around $11,000 in a year while some make upwards of $13,000 during the regular season. Based on differences in the cost of living, we calculate (using www.bankrate.com) that $11,000 translates to $7,760 if they served food and drinks for the Seattle Mariners, $7,880 for the Chicago Cubs or White Sox, and $6,530 for the Atlanta Braves.

 

 

THE OLD BALLGAME

At the Giants-Padres game on June 18, a Tuesday, several hundred protesters gathered at a rally to show support for the Giants concession workers. Most were affiliated with Local 2, but a few off-duty concession workers came to join the demonstration.

They implored the fans—most whom seemed to be just learning about the dispute—to abstain from purchasing any concession stand products. The rally started an hour before game time engulfed fans waiting in line with chants of "No justice, no garlic fries!" and "Ain't no protest like an union protest because an union protest don't stop!"

Inside the stadium, 44 protesters (all of whom had purchased tickets) staged a sit-in in front the garlic fries stand situated behind sections 122 and 123. Their numbers withered as the game progressed and by the fourth inning, the area in front of the stand was cleared and business resumed, with 10 protesters arrested for refusing to disperse.

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