cubs_conv

Unconventional Visitors: Union Turns Up at Cubs Convention!

If you attended the Cubs Convention at the Sheraton hotel last weekend you might have encountered a labor union activist and not even noticed.\n\nYou may have been handed a stylish drink coaster for the light beer you were nursing in between giant swills of the Cubbie kool-aid.\n\nYou may have noticed the baseball graphic on the front of the cardboard coaster that read: “Celebrating 123 Years.”\n\nIntrigued you may have flipped it over, treatment help beverage in hand so as to prevent a drink ring on the hotel furniture, click and read what was inscribed on the back: “For 123 years hotel workers in Chicago have had union contracts.  Sheraton Hotel workers have great wages and benefits.  Wrigley Field Concession Workers have the same Union, and when the new Wrigley hotel opens, the workers should have Sheraton quality jobs.”\n\n“Great wages and benefits,” you might have thought to yourself, your mood elevated with thoughts of sunny, day-baseball games in mid-January.  “Yeah, those hotel workers should have quality jobs.”\n\nAt least that’s what Unite Here! Local 1 hoped you would think, as staff members fanned out over three floors of the Sheraton hotel to mingle with fans last weekend.  They were there to build awareness and support for good jobs for Chicago’s labor force.\n\n\n\nOn the Cubs’ “Restore Wrigley Field” website, visitors are asked to sign a petition backing a Wrigley Field development plan that, for those who are unaware, includes a 175-room “premium hotel” next to the park.  The hotel is part of a Wrigleyville (or Rickettsville) project that the Cubs claim will “create approximately 2,100 new jobs.”\n\nThe job estimate is no doubt inflated, but as important as the number of jobs the new Rickettsville will offer is what kind of jobs they’ll be.  As Ricketts maneuvers for tax breaks and other special favors from city government, we should demand that these incentives lead to decent livelihoods for more Chicagoans.\n\nBesides the obvious ethical rationale for paying Rickettsville employees a living wage, there are pragmatic reasons as well.\n\nUnlike wealthy team executives and players who, as economists tell us, tend to make their permanent homes and do most of their spending outside of Chicago, a larger number of Cubs ballpark (and soon hotel) employees make their homes in the city.  And these lower-income residents don’t tuck away money in offshore accounts or seek to strengthen their investment portfolios; they spend more and pay all of their taxes here. The more money they have, the better things are for all of us, as that money is circulated locally.\n\n(Note: An equally sound, similar argument applies to raising the minimum wage nationally.)\n\nAlso, when a company pays its employees poverty wages, workers and their families must rely on government-sponsored services to get by.  And when employers rely on taxpayers to ensure that their workforce is nourished and healthy enough to work, that’s another form of public subsidies to corporations.\n\nAll of this is a concern with the Cubs because jobs provided by sports teams tend to be low-wage, part-time, and temporary.  While sports team operators do their best to keep employment data secret, a 2011 study on Yankee Stadium employees found that the average starting wage for non-managerial workers was $9.19 an hour.  And striking employees at AT&T Park in San Francisco were making $11,000 annually last May.\n\n\n\nHotel workers nationally aren’t much better off.  The Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that hotel nonsupervisory employees earned an average of $11.93 an hour for 25 hours a week in December, 2013.  That’s $15,509 a year, according to our old friend math.\n\nThank goodness—and hundreds of years of struggles against greedy employers—for organized labor, earning better wages and benefits through collective bargaining.\n\nA report published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics last April concluded that “union workers receive larger wage increases than those of non-union workers and generally earn higher wages and have greater access to most of the common employer-sponsored benefits as well.”\n\nIn 2011, an average non-union service industry worker in the private sector earned a paltry $10.16 per hour, which was $6.01 an hour less than a union employee working the same job.  Meanwhile, the gap has widened between benefits earned among non-union and union service employees over the last decade, with the latter earning $7.11 per hour more in benefit costs to employers.\n\nDecent wages and benefits for Rickettsville’s concessions, hotel, and other employees doesn’t seem too much to ask, especially considering that, while real wages have declined for most people in America in recent years, MLB revenues have increased by billions, central office executives make millions annually, and the average player salary is now over $3 million per year.  Meanwhile, the Cubs are the fourth most valuable franchise in baseball, worth a billion dollars and taking in close to $300 million a year according to Forbes.\n\nSo how about paying some back to the Wrigley Field employees who pour Old Styles and scrub the troughs?  And to the people who will clean up Ricketts’ hotel rooms after countless drunken Wrigleyville romps?\n\nBecause not everyone is handed a billion trust-fund dollars by their father to buy a Major League Baseball team, like Tom Ricketts and his sibling were.\n\nIf those of us without baseball teams are supposed to pull ourselves up by the proverbial bootstraps, let’s at least make it a point that no one is wanting for the boots!\n\nAnd so, oddly, there was the union at the Cubs Convention over the weekend, not-so-oddly fighting to make good wages and benefits a Chicago convention.

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