San Francisco Giants and Golden State Warriors give stadium workers the boot
Cardboard fans don't eat hot dogs. The company that manages stadiums for both the Giants and the Golden State Warriors have eliminated the jobs of over 2,000 vendeors. Here, cutouts of former football players Steve Young, from left, and Jerry Rice sit next to former baseball player Barry Bonds in seats at Oracle Park before a baseball game between the San Francisco Giants and the San Diego Padres in San Francisco, July 28, 2020. | Jeff Chiu / AP

I got the email firing me from my job at the Giants ballpark Monday, July 27. The following evening, I learned from the San Francisco Examiner that I would also get fired from my second job at the new Golden State Warriors stadium, and a combined 2,154 other food service workers were also being shown the door at these two sports venues. It was a pretty cold way to get the news.

Since 2013, I’ve sold garlic fries and beer to untold numbers of baseball fans. Back in the 1980s, I cooked hot dogs for the vendors at the old Candlestick Park stadium. Now it looks like my jobs at Oracle Park and Chase Center may be going the same way as Candlestick.

I grew up in Los Angeles, where I was a fan of the Dodgers, Jackie Robinson’s old team from Brooklyn, N.Y. But I’ve lived in the greater San Francisco Bay Area since I was 17, and after more than five decades, I’m now a Giants fan. And a Warriors fan. They just don’t seem to be a fan of me anymore.

None of us at the Giants ballpark or the Warriors stadium have been working since March when San Francisco shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. But we’d been assured it was just temporary until things got better. “This will not result in the termination of any individual’s employment with the Company,” wrote the company back in March.

But now it’s past July, and they changed their minds. According to their email, “We have to eliminate several positions, including yours.”

It’s not as if the Giants or the Warriors are in some dire financial straits. Each team is worth multiple billions of dollars.

A recent article in The Nation said, the teams we work for “are among the most profitable corporations in the country, and…the owners who control those companies are among the wealthiest individuals in the nation.” Major league baseball teams alone “are worth over $55 billion. The 30 principal owners of these teams are worth $78 billion.”

Of course, we should be thankful for small favors, I suppose. When we were furloughed in March, the Warriors gave us each a check for $1,000, and the Giants ponied up $500. What we didn’t know at the time was that this was going to be our severance pay.

Black Lives Matter banner at the Willie Mays statue in front of Oracle Park. | Courtesy of Marc Norton

Larry Baer, the Giants CEO, in an April 1 statement, said stadium workers are “the people that work hard, work diligently, and serve our fans, which is the lifeblood of our sport and our business.”

Perhaps, in the light of our firing, this was meant to be an April Fool’s joke. As others have pointed out, MLB (Major League Baseball) is BLM spelled backward. But unlike many stadium workers, I don’t think many of our sports team owners worry about being stopped by the cops on their way home from work—a reality faced by those working the stadium stands.

Stadium workers are overwhelmingly people of color. San Francisco stadium workers, in particular, have a large group of Black workers, in part because the Giants and 49ers old Candlestick Park stadium was located in Bayview-Hunters Point—a predominately Black community cut off and isolated from the rest of San Francisco.

Back to our firings—I should clear up one little legal detail. We don’t work directly for the Giants or the Warriors. We work for their food-service contractor, a big-time corporation called Bon Appetit. Does that name make you hungry for more? And Bon Appetit is part of an even bigger corporate giant called Compass.

Bon Appetit is the food-service contractor at both the Giants and Warriors stadiums. This way, the Giants and the Warriors can claim to be somehow uninvolved in all of this, while their hatchet men do the dirty work. But does anyone think the Giants and the Warriors don’t know what Bon Appetit is doing and aren’t consulted about little moves like firing 2,000-plus people?

Bon Appetit is trying to soften the blow of giving us all the boot by promising that we have recall rights, perhaps with seniority, for 12 months at the Giants ballpark, and 24 months at the Warriors stadium. The Giants bit is in our expired UNITE HERE Local 2 contract, so thank you very much. I haven’t seen anything in writing yet about my expired Warriors stadium job. I am fairly sure we will all be hearing a lot more from Local 2.

Curiously, and adding insult to injury, I got the “see you later, alligator” email the very same day I got my last $600-per-week pandemic unemployment payment. That $600 is bye-bye now, courtesy of the Republicans in the Senate. That was a double whammy. What timing.

Bon Appetit told the San Francisco Chronicle: “We look forward to a time when venues reopen and hope to rehire many of our former employees as service levels return to normal.” Do you know the old story about how good it feels to stop hitting yourself in the head with a hammer?

I guess we got fired so our bosses could “look forward to a time” when they can rehire “many” of us.

UPDATE August 10 – UNITE HERE Local 2 has initiated some hardball negotiations in response to these terminations and is planning an action to counter the billionaire sports owners’ disrespect. Workers and supporters will assemble on Friday, Aug. 14 at 6pm at the Willie Mays statue at the Giants ballpark, prior to the Giants-A’s game. For the latest info, check out the Local 2 website.


CONTRIBUTOR

Marc Norton
Marc Norton

Marc Norton has been a member of UNITE HERE Local 2 since 1976. He has worked as a dishwasher, steward, cook, bellman, and cashier.

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