Striking Out

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

news@sfbg.com

Today marks 1,575 days since concession workers at AT&T Park have had a raise, during which time the San Francisco Giants have been fabulously successful, both on and off the playing field.

The 750 workers represented by UNITE-HERE Local 2 are currently involved in frustrating and fruitless negotiations with their employer, Centerplate, a South Carolina-based food service company contracted by the Giants to sell beer, garlic fries, and other overpriced consumables at games.

The Giants and its front office seem fairly unconcerned about the plight of workers who proudly don the team's logo and pad its revenues. Not a single concession worker that we interviewed for this article said that they work for Centerplate — each of them said that they work for the Giants.

Since the last contract expired in March 2010, the Giants have won two World Series championships, raised the average ticket price by 20 percent, and have seen the value of the team shoot up by $223 million. The only thing that hasn't improved are the wages of the concession workers.

Cashiers currently make $16.40 per hour, in-seat runners make $13.40, and some entry-level workers make just $10.45, which is actually less the city's minimum wage. That's only legal because those workers were under contract for $10.45 per hour when the wage increased to $10.55 at the beginning of this year. And Centerplate won't even let Giants workers have a tip jar to augment their substandard wages.

Local 2 reports that revenue from concessions is divided up in a 55-45 split between the team and Centerplate (the Giants PR office disputes this number, but it won't divulge the actual split). So when a fan spends $17 for a hot dog and 16oz beer, Centerplate and its workers get $7.65 and the Giants get $9.35, all of it pure profit. And the Giants executives even set the concession prices, not Centerplate.

But the team says the plight of these workers isn't its problem. "We continue to urge both parties to get back to the bargaining table and to have productive discussions so the matter can be resolved as quickly as possible. This dispute is between Centerplate and Local 2, not the Giants," is the team's public position on the issue.

The Giants communications office responded with this stance to every question the Guardian asked about the issues involved: What have you done to "urge" Centerplate to settle the contract? Couldn't the Giants force a settlement if it really wanted to? Why haven't concessions workers shared in the team's success and rising revenues? How can you claim to support the community if you can't even ensure the people who work in your stadium are paid minimum wage?

The Giants had nothing to say about a petition signed by 600 of the workers urging the team and Centerplate to agree to a deal, instituting a company-wide no-comment policy on the standoff with concession workers.

"It would be nice if they would come in and talk—not be a mediator, but to know what we're asking for and say why they're not providing it or why they feel they shouldn't provide certain information," Billie Feliciano, who has worked as a Giants cashier for more than 30 years, told us. "They could talk to the president of the union on that if they wanted to. You know, we're not asking you to tell us how you spend your money. We just want to know how much control you have of this situation."

Feliciano and her fellow workers just want the Giants to be team players.

 

 

WHO'S IN CONTROL?

Contrary to what the Giants may say, there is one pressing issue—job security for the workers—that is nearly impossible for the workers and Centerplate to resolve. Every worker interviewed for this story has explicitly said that job security is their most important goal.

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