In a big labor battle that has been developing out in San Francisco, concession workers at AT&T Park voted nearly unanimously — 97 percent — on Saturday to give their union the authority to call for a strike.
The stadium workers requested the authorization vote on Friday after expressing continued dissatisfaction over the lack of progress in their negotiations for a new contract with Centerplate INC., which is the firm that operates the concessions for the Giants and AT&T Park.
The workers voted 500 to 16 before and after Saturday's home game against the Atlanta Braves to give UNITE HERE Local 2 representatives the bargaining tool, said Nischit Hegde, a spokeswoman for the union.
Workers will not immediately strike, but instead wait to see how South Carolina concession management firm Centerplate responds to the vote, Hegde said.
"People are very serious about what they need and they want to be taken seriously, and I think a 97 percent authorization vote displays how serious they are," Hegde said.
Around 750 stadium workers — including cashiers, cooks and suite attendants — are represented by the union. Each and every one of them has been working without a contract for three years.
With that in mind, you can certainly understand their uneasiness and the desire to get an official deal in writing. But a Centerplate spokesman insisted this week that despite the lack of a contract, the workers have been treated respectfully and beyond fairly.
Centerplate spokesman Sam Singer called the strike threat “unfortunate.”
“The employees are highly valued by Centerplate,” he said. But “they are among the best-paid in the industry, making $15 to $20 an hour, plus 100 percent of health care.”
Centerplate and the union are scheduled to continue their talks next week.
Should the workers walk out, the stadium concessions would be staffed by management and other employees.
“There will be no disruption to any fans at Giants games,” Singer said.
Honestly, those do seem like pretty fair conditions on the surface, but it's also being reported that the workers haven't received raises of any kind in several years and that Centerplate is seeking to cap their healthcare benefits.
Needless to say, we have a battle on our hands here. And all of this comes just four days after the Giants were ordered to pay $700,000 in back wages to clubhouse workers. The drama off the field and in the stands is overshadowing the excitement on the field, and that's a difficult thing to do when the team involved has won two of the last three World Series.