Striking Out - Page 3

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

That protest followed a more significant action on May 25, when all of the 750 workers staged an one day strike, authorized by a 500-16 vote by workers. For that game, Centerplate employed volunteer workers who only got paid in tips. Yes, the scabs got the tips that the regular workers are being denied.

Food and drink service during that game was significantly slower than normal, as even the Giants acknowledged. There were reports of fans standing up to 40 minutes in line for a beer, which is usually more than two innings, an amount of playing time that few true baseball fan would ever give up for a beer run.

Critics—including several passerby fans who were loudly expressing their disdain for the demonstrators at the Giants-Padres game—say the workers should be content with what they have, perhaps assuming the workers were getting more from that $10 beer than they really are.

When Pearlie Jones started working concessions at Giants games 22 years ago, hot dogs were $3. Today they sell for twice that amount at the stand that Jones now manages.

We met Jones at the Local 2 building in the Tenderloin. She lives in Daly City, survives on unemployment during the off-season, and has no other source for health insurance. With nervous laughter, Jones told us she "prays to God during [the off season] that I don't get sick."

Wendelburger, who has to commute almost two hours each way to the ball park, works as a bartender during the off-season, although he can only get three days a week. When asked about health insurance during the off-season, this husband and father of two says, "Unless I'm going to die, I'm not going to see a doctor."

But Jones says that as important as improved wages and healthcare benefits are to her and other employees, they really fear losing their jobs: "Our job security is the main issue that we're pushing for right now."

One issue that seems telling of the way Centerplate and the Giants are treating concession workers is on the issue of tips. The workers are currently not allowed a tip jar or a tip line on credit card receipts, a standard feature of food service, particularly here in the Bay Area, where even butchers and bakers have tip jars.

Ramirez says she's utterly baffled by Centerplate's stubbornness on the issue. "A tip line is something that doesn't cost management anything and requires a small change in the computer system and is something the customers are actually demanding. We have a great experience with our fans and customers and they want to share their gratitude and they can't," she told us.

Another seemingly minor yet deadlocked issue is the request for benches for in-seat food runners. These workers currently have nowhere to sit for breaks or in between food runs, yet Centerplate has refused to budge on that issue.

When asked about these minor demands, a Centerplate spokesperson said that they have not seen any list of demands from Local 2, a statement disputed by workers and Local 2.

Centerplate has cast workers as greedy, even filing a lawsuit against Local 2 claiming that the union and the workers are trying to exploit the Giants' World Series championships, an action that the union and its workers heard about from reporters, adding to the aura of mistrust hanging over these negotiations.

 

 

LONG STANDOFF

Both sides have accused the other of not operating in good faith, something they both hope will change when negotiations resume on July 29.

Centerplate says it wants to give the workers a contract, but blames the deadlocked negotiations on Local 2 head Mike Casey, who also serves as the elected president of the San Francisco Labor Council.