$349 health care and $10 beers

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My love for baseball dates all the way back to childhood, when my dad used to let me stay up past the seventh to watch the Sox on TV. Once a year we made a pilgramage to Boston, where my family dominated a whole row of seating in the nosebleed section, and I got to drink a soda and eat a hot dog and watch my hero, Roger Clemens, pitch from his own mound. Yesterday, for the first time in my life, I went to see my native team outside of Fenway Park, and was shocked by the greeting I got at the gate.

There were at least half a dozen B hats on the 21 Hayes, and the Coliseum BART station may as well have been Boston's Back Bay. I was meeting a handful of native New Englanders, and I was waiting for them at the Coliseum entrance, where a couple of people were passing out yellow fliers. So I took one.

They were security guards for the Coliseum, employed by WSB, who subcontracts the work, and they were leafletting the fact that for two years they've been working without a contract, without affordable health insurance, and without a raise. One woman told me she makes a little over $16/hour, and $349 is cut from every check, up from $190 a couple months ago, and it isn't even for PPO care. Staff has been cut to only 3 full time watchmen, with no weapons detail. "I'm doing a three-man job as one person, with no weapon," she said, which upsets her as they've been having a lot of break-ins recently of people raiding the concessions stands and stealing aluminum off the bleachers. She says after midnight, staff gets cut to two, and there isn't anyone to man the cameras. Beyond the obvious safety issue, WSB has managed to alienate what she says are some very loyal employees. The money issue is getting critical for her so she phoned Alameda County Supervisor and Coliseum Authority member Gail Steele to see if an intervention could come before a strike.

Sylvia Ruiz, of SEIU Local 1877, which represents the security guards and groundskeepers at the Coliseum, said they're still trying to negotiate with the owner of WSB, Bobby Sisk, for raises and more affordable health care. Sisk is out of the office until next week, so couldn't comment on why an $800,000 contract with the city of Oakland doesn't afford annual raises or palatable benefits for his employees.

It was a good game. The Sox destroyed the A's, and the crowd was 33,000 strong, choked with just as many Sox fans as A's fans. Seeing a game live is a classic American experience, but in fine American fashion, I was a little sore about spending $35 for a seat, $10 for a beer, and $5 on a hot dog, and having to hear that the handful of people who care for the stadium could be making a decent living if their boss could kick down a little bit of the profits.

- Amanda Witherell
amanda@sfbg.com