There could be a major snafu at the San Francisco Giants' ballpark in the coming weeks, and it has the potential to majorly affect the fan experience at Oracle Park.
Concessions workers with Unite Here Local 2, which represents about 930 concessions workers at Oracle Park, have overwhelmingly voted to authorize a strike due to ongoing issues relating to safety, pay and health care. Eighty-six percent of active concessions workers cast a ballot, and 96.7 percent of them voted to authorize a work stoppage.
“Bon Appetit [management company] and the Giants’ approach to workers and fans’ safety during this latest surge of COVID-19 is completely inadequate and dangerously irresponsible,” Anand Singh, president of Local 2, wrote in to the San Francisco Gate after the vote was announced. “Our members have carried on through this pandemic without fair compensation and security in our health insurance, while the Giants have continued to reap profits. We are ready to fight for our health, our safety, and for justice at the ballpark.”
A strike can be called at any time — regular season or playoffs.
Concessions workers' issues
The concessions workers, who aren't directly employed by the Giants but are employed by a subcontractor called Bon Appetit, have three main issues they want addressed: salary, health care and safety.
According to the SF Gate, concessions workers haven't received a raise since 2018 despite asking three different times. Each time the Giants, who are owned by a man worth about $5 billion, have ignored their request, the union says.
Workers' health care is dependent on the number of events they work per month. With COVID-19 still a factor, there aren't as many non-Giants events happening at Oracle Park, meaning that many workers aren't meeting the 10-event threshold as they have in previous years. Unite Here Local 2 wants the Giants to reconsider the threshold.
Jeannette Copeland-Estrada, an Oracle Park worker for 27 years who regularly interacts with fans as part of her job, told the SF Gate that the Giants have become incredibly lax in checking fans for proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. She also said that the Giants told her not to ask fans to put up their face masks if they're talking to her at a close distance. According to Singh, Bon Appetit has said that they're unable to set rules regarding ballpark safety since they're only the contractor.
Technically, the union will be negotiating with Bon Appetit. But as Alex Schultz of the SF Gate wrote, it's more straightforward than it seems. The Giants hold the purse strings, so they decide everything.
The Giants' response
The Giants released this response to the strike authorization vote to several local news outlets.
"Bon Appétit Management Company and Local 2 are currently engaged in collective bargaining negotiations. We encourage both sides to work productively to reach an agreement as soon as possible. The Giants make the health and safety of everyone working and visiting Oracle Park a top priority. We operate our venue in compliance with local and state health requirements."
While that statement has the Giants foisting responsibility entirely on Bon Appetit, that's not entirely the truth of the matter. The Giants hold the purse strings and have the ability to give the concessions workers exactly what they want, as Singh told the SF Gate.
“It’s a negotiation between us and Bon Appetit, certainly, but the Giants hold the cards here,” Singh said. “If the Giants were to decide today that workers should receive $3 an hour more, they could direct their subcontractors to make it so. That’s where the money is coming from, their own coffers. The Giants are in control of everything at that ballpark.”
We'll have to see if the Giants change their tune about the issues on the table if the workers actually go on strike. If (or when) they do, Bon Appetit will likely be forced to call in replacements who may not have concessions experience. The expertise of concessions workers to quickly make food and fulfill orders is what keeps lines manageable at stadiums (among countless other tasks).
It's hard to imagine a positive reaction from fans who are attending a game during a heated pennant race if they have to wait an hour in line to get a hot dog. That'll be even less forgivable during the actual playoffs. And there is some precedent for that. Unite Here Local 2 went on a one-day strike in 2013, and the experience with replacement workers had fans immediately clamoring for the Giants to capitulate and get the union workers back at their jobs.
“Eight years ago, the fans were like, ‘Give them what they want!’ because the people they got to go to the park weren't efficient or fast enough to do the job that we do,” Copeland-Estrada told the SF Gate. “It was a one-day strike, but we were heard. You need to be fair and right with us. Don’t use us and abuse us.”