Giants concessions workers reach tentative deal to avoid strike

In a victory for labor, a 50-person negotiating committee of San Francisco Giants concessions workers has agreed to a tentative deal with the team’s subcontractor for food services, Bon Appetit. This news comes nearly a month after Giants concessions workers from the Local 2 union overwhelmingly voted to authorize a strike if their demands were not met.

The deal — which concessions workers will formally vote on Thursday and is widely expected to pass — guarantees Oracle Park workers a retroactive $3 an hour raise, a separate, retroactive $1.50 an hour hazard pay bonus for 2020 and 2021, additional yearly raises that will ultimately total a $7 an hour increase by 2024, as well as significant improvements to health care and pension plans. (The base hourly pay rate for Oracle Park concessions workers is currently $20.75.)

“We’re very pleased,” Local 2 President Anand Singh told SFGATE. “When you strike a deal like this, especially at a time like this, it has an impact on workers everywhere. It should send a message to other employers that we deal with that times may be difficult, but working people haven’t given up their determination and their resolve in securing what’s fair. People need to step up and treat the workers with respect. If not, they should be held accountable.”

Giants concessions workers’ primary asks from the lead-up to negotiations were mostly satisfied with this proposed arrangement, which will run through March 2024 if approved.

For one, workers secured both a substantiative raise (something they’d requested for three years) and a hazard pay bonus they’d more recently pushed for in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Cost of living goes up, and everyone has families, groceries to put in the refrigerator, shoes to put on kids, so we were very grateful that they agreed to the raise,” said Deborah Torrano, a luxury suites server and Giants concessions worker for 32 years dating back to Candlestick Park, who just served on a negotiating committee for the first time.

The committee convinced Bon Appetit to do away with the previous threshold system that required workers to attend 10 events a month in order to obtain health care; instead, the company will reduce the eligibility threshold to however many events are actually taking place at Oracle Park in a given month. And regardless of insurance cost hikes over the next three years, workers won’t see a jump in their premiums, currently set at $0 for individuals and $10 for unlimited dependents. 

“Every single year that I’ve been here, there’s been a month during the season where there are only nine games and no one gets health care,” Torrano said. “Everyone had to scramble to get their teeth cleaned, their kids taken care of, their medical procedures taken care of. It was always a battle and very stressful. Now that we don’t have to worry about that, it’s a breath of fresh air.”

Workers also made real inroads on more meaningful pension plans, boosting pension benefits by close to 60%, according to Singh. “We still have a ways to go, but I think we’re very proud of the progress in this contract,” he said.

That’s especially helpful for folks like Torrano, who’s planning to retire in the next few years. “I love my job,” Torrano said. “I would like to pay my mortgage and live a nice, happy, healthy life after I retire. Along with that, I feel it’s very important to those who are behind me who are trying to gain a pension and saving for their future that this job can take care of them when they retire, too.”

Singh credited the Sept. 4 strike vote — in which 96.7% of voters authorized a strike — and the ensuing sign-up for potential picketing duties for “moving the parties to the table.” He thanked Bon Appetit for “stepping up” and for “setting an industry standard around the country for safe and sustaining jobs.”

Bon Appetit Management Company CEO Fedele Bauccio released the following statement to SFGATE:

“My team and I are pleased that contract negotiations proceeded to a successful conclusion. As a company, we have always strived to offer the best possible work environment and benefits for our employees and to work collaboratively with union representatives. I am glad that Oracle Park will continue to be a desirable workplace for our employees.” 

One not-insignificant issue remains only partially resolved: health and safety measures at the ballpark, which is the Giants’ direct domain, as opposed to Bon Appetit’s. Concessions workers have complained that fans at Oracle Park are too often approaching them without masks on, and that the Giants organization hasn’t been enforcing strict enough protection measures.

Over the past few weeks, the Giants have installed more signs reminding patrons to wear a mask around workers. Torrano said that’s definitely helped in the suites she serves, but she’s routinely reminding attendees to be mindful, especially in Oracle Park hallways.

Concessions workers have worried about their health since Bon Appetit belatedly informed them of more than 20 positive COVID-19 tests among their ranks in July and August alone. And workers don’t understand why San Francisco won’t go the same route as Los Angeles and the Dodgers and simply enforce a proof of vaccination or negative test rule for fan entry. 

“I think there’s some sentiment among our members that as soon as we settle this contract and the pressure is off, [the Giants will] start to look the other way on health and safety requirements,” Singh said. “We’re going to continue monitoring health and safety at the ballpark very closely.”

Singh asserted that the convoluted nature of these negotiations — the Local 2 union was forced to bargain with subcontractor Bon Appetit on the main sticking points while the Giants, who still run the show, kept their distance — is an unfortunate MLB-wide problem.

“This isn’t unique to the Giants,” Singh said. “This really should put a spotlight on the fact that MLB teams should not be able to absolve themselves of the plight of working people in their stadiums. These are vastly profitable enterprises, and there’s no reason to create the kind of turmoil and havoc over a few dollars an hour wage increase that workers are deserving of in a moment like this.”

But in the end, the negotiations proved fruitful for workers, who are on the verge of meaningful quality-of-life improvements while simultaneously avoiding a potentially prolonged strike.

“We can all enjoy the playoffs together,” Singh joked.

When asked whether she had a message for other workers who might find themselves in similar professional predicaments, Torrano offered a full-fledged endorsement of her union membership, and collective action more generally.

“When I turned 18, my father took me to do two things: register to vote and sign up for a union,” she told SFGATE. “I think if you have the opportunity to be in a union, your union will take care of you. You fight for your rights, and they will fight for you. And we proved that.”