This article is free for anyone to read, but please consider becoming a Patreon subscriber to allow me to keep writing posts like this one. Sign up to receive articles like this one in your inbox here.
Recall this summer, when Dodger Stadium concession workers authorized a strike shortly before the 2022 MLB All-Star Game was held at that venue? It was a well-timed threat, and, due to UNITE HERE’s history of following through on such threats, one that was heeded immediately. The All-Star Game went on as planned, because the concessionaire these workers were employed by, Compass/Levy, agreed to listen to their demands after the strike was authorized.
While few details were released at the time in regards to what exactly the strike threat was aiming to achieve other than to get Compass/Levy to go back to the bargaining table — Los Angeles’ UNITE branch did not release specifics this time around like their Bay Area counterparts did at Oracle Park before the 2021 postseason — a new contract has been signed, and now we have a sense of some of what it was they were fighting for.
Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times had the story:
The union members had been working under an expired contract. With a minimum guaranteed income from tips now added to wages, examples for hourly pay raises from 2020 to 2024 include $18.14 to $30.94 for concession stand employees, $19.76 to $30.96 for stadium club host, $25.50 to $34.70 for pastry chef, and $19.96 to $32.66 for beer tapper, according to a contract summary provided by the union.
Compass/Levy also agreed to reduce the use of temporary employees by 80% by the time the contract ends on Jan. 31, 2025, according to the summary.
For one, the fact these concessioners were all working under an expired contract gives you some insight as to why they felt authorizing a strike was necessary just a few months ago: the contract is up and Compass/Levy wouldn’t even meet with them to continue to discuss a new one? Despicable. Second, those are some massive raises in a vaccuum, but the rates the workers are at now aren’t the kind that make anyone rich, either: 52 weeks per year of 40 hours per week at $30.96 is $64,396 before anything is taken out of it. The previous rate of $19.76 per hour for the stadium club hosts would come out to just $41,100 over the same amount of time.
Consider that these are people living in Los Angeles, one of the most expensive cities to live in in the country, and there were multiple types of concessioners pulling in under $20 per hour at the ballpark. And, considering the provision to reduce the number of temporary employees by the end of this current contract, you can imagine that a whole bunch of the possible hours were being filled by people either making less or who were there mostly just to reduce how much more senior employees could make, or have their benefits impacted. Remember, from last year, that one of the significant issues facing the Oracle Park employees was that the reduced number of events had cut into their possible hours, which in turn cut into their access to their healthcare benefits.
Working concessions isn’t just some job that high school kids perform on the side, even if you might have that image in your head (which is not me saying that it’s fine to underpay those people, either, just that the image of “short-term seasonal worker” is certainly one that has been leaned on to justify employer decisions in the past, whether it’s true or not). These are event staff working for a concessionaire year-round: someone who works Phillies games, for instance, also likely works Eagles and Flyers and 76ers games, plus concerts, college events, and so on.
These are not part-time jobs for most: they are careers, or, at the least, full-time gigs, not like high schoolers serving ice cream for a few months before heading back to school. Even if this is someone’s second job, it’s still a significant one, as I wrote about back in 2020:
Barbara, an Aramark concessioner who spends time at all three Philadelphia venues, explained how the lack of assistance from the Phillies will impact her and her family. “It is a second job, but it sometimes feels like a full-time job with the hours. Even though I have another full-time job, this one is just as important to sustaining my family. It helped me to purchase a home. It’s helped me to maintain and basically survive. And I know that my personal situation may not be as bad as someone else where this is their only job, and I know a lot of people in that employment situation. I’m obviously working a second job for a reason, though.”
So, reducing the number of temporary folks working concessions, when there are plenty of people who are in this for the long haul to get paid as much as possible while receiving benefits, bouncing from team to team and event to event year-round, makes a lot of sense, and seems nearly as vital as the across-the-board pay raises that UNITE HERE Local 11’s workers fought for and won.
And hey, the two sides came to terms before another strike authorization needed to occur, too. Surely that’s because Compass/Levy already buckled once when the All-Star Game was in jeopardy: the postseason would have been just as tantalizing a target for UNITE’s workers, should it have come to that. It seems another push wasn’t necessary, though, to get what these workers deserved. You love to see a strike threat, but sometimes it’s better to just get what you’re entitled to without having to go down that route, too.
Visit my Patreon to become a supporter and help me continue to write articles like this one.