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Oracle Park workers announce strike vote

Lack of raises, poor COVID protocols that have led to many workers being infected, and the team’s dismissive attitude to workers’ struggles are some of the reasons for the upcoming vote on Saturday.

MLB: Texas Rangers at San Francisco Giants Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

One of the most important parts of a ballgame, albeit highly underappreciated are the people who create the ballpark experience. The concession workers who throw little kids bags of peanuts, sell you overpriced hot dogs (while pocketing none of the profit), make going out to a ball game an experience in its own right — these are the unsung heroes of the MLB.

Drawing on articles and excellent reporting from SFGATE, NBC Bay Area, 48Hills, and Kron4, the summary of the upcoming situation is as follows. The San Francisco Giants, like many other professional sports teams, subcontract their concession workers through another company — in this case, a company called Bon Appetit, which also runs the concessions for the Golden State Warriors. However, because the profit from food sales ends up going back to the Giants, they set the overarching rules that Bon Appetit operates under and at the end of the day bear enormous responsibility for how Bon Appetit chooses to conduct operations (despite the team’s attempt to pass off responsibility to the subcontracted company).

There are three main issues outlined in the articles that the concession workers noted:

  1. The Giants have not given concession workers a raise in three years, and during the pandemic when games were not being played only sent workers $500, with no other benefits. (In comparison, the Warriors sent the workers $1000, and helped cover health insurance during the NBA season, despite no fans being allowed at Chase Center either).
  2. Bon Appetit - and the Giants - require workers to work 10 events a month at Oracle Park to qualify for health insurance, but there are only nine events scheduled for some of the upcoming months. In addition, there are far fewer non-Giants events than usual at Oracle Park due to the ongoing pandemic: this had made it so many workers are ending up just one or two events under the threshold and failing to qualify for health insurance.
  3. The Giants have been highly lax about enforcing COVID protocols within the ballpark. They no longer enforce the rule of a negative COVID test or proof of vaccination before entering the ballpark, and mask mandates seem to be suggestions more than requirements (one worker in the SFGATE article mentioned she was explicitly asked not to tell patrons to put their masks up). Over 20+ concession workers have tested positive for COVID-19 since the ballpark reopened.

Off of these major issues, the asks by the concession workers are as follows:

  1. The workers want an additional $3 per hour in hazard pay, especially given the fact that the Giants are not moving to a proof of vaccination entrance into the ballpark and seem unwilling to enforce their own COVID-19 protocols;
  2. The workers want the threshold for health insurance to be lowered from 10 events to 9 events so that even in months where there are less than 10 events, they can qualify for health insurance.

While the Giants continue to push the blame onto Bon Appetit, it’s clear that if the Giants mandated these two conditions, Bon Appetit would follow. As many workers noted, it’s the Giants who have the real power in the ballpark; Bon Appetit just does what the Giants say.

The workers are set to hold a strike vote on Saturday at 2pm, before the Giants-Dodgers game.

The concession workers had have a strike once before, in 2013, after not receiving raises since 2009. The outcome of that strike was successful, leading to increased wages for the concession workers. The concession workers are represented by the same hospitality workers’ union this time around, called UNITE HERE.

The Giants are worth $3.18 billion, and their owner, Charles Johnson, has a net worth of $5.6 billion. A McCovey Chronicles article from 2019 also discusses how the Giants make by far the most revenue per fan of any team in the major leagues.