The end of the 2022 White Sox season was disappointing for many, and not just on the field.
Concessions workers employed by food contract service company Delaware North formed a picket line Tuesday afternoon outside of Guaranteed Rate Field’s main entrance, citing gross underpayment and inadequate health benefits under Delaware North and the White Sox.
Represented by Unite Here Local 1 (the Chicago branch of a service and hospitality workers’ union with some 300,000 members nationwide), workers from Wrigley Field, Soldier Field, and the United Center rallied in support of their Guaranteed Rate Field colleagues, who described pay rates and benefit packages far out of line with cost-of-living standards in Chicago.
“On what I am being paid working for Delaware North, I am unable to afford to pay for my own apartment. I am forced to live with a friend and share on rent and other bills.” - Gregory Walker, @delawarenorth employee of 25 years pic.twitter.com/k2jnqMAsQv— UNITE HERE Local 1 (@UniteHereLocal1) October 4, 2022
Attendees specifically noted that the health benefits offered to Guaranteed Rate Field workers were considerably worse than those at other facilities.
Per job listings posted on glassdoor, Delaware North cashiers at stadiums in Chicago are paid the city-mandated minimum wage of $15.40 per hour. The minimum wage for tipped employees is lower, at $9.24 per hour at companies the size of Delaware North. At this rate, employees take home less than $10,000 working a full summer at Guaranteed Rate Field, before taxes.
A one-bedroom apartment in Chicago has an average monthly rent of $1,865. Only three of 49 neighborhoods listed on Rent.com have an average monthly rent of less than $1,000.
MIT estimates a living wage in Cook County to be just under $20 per hour for a single adult with no children. For a single parent with one child or dependent, it jumps to more than $36 per hour.
“I take care of my 93 year old mother and it’s a struggle to make enough money to support both of us.” - Richard Parker, @delawarenorth employee of 29 years pic.twitter.com/QVhRGFCEt4— UNITE HERE Local 1 (@UniteHereLocal1) October 4, 2022
“[It was] a shame to hear from a woman on the picket line that workers at Sox Park are getting the worst health care compared to the other stadiums.” said Ambria Taylor, a candidate for Alderman in the 11th Ward who attended Tuesday’s action. The 11th Ward includes the entirety of Guaranteed Rate Field and its hundreds of thousands of square feet in parking lots — the proceeds from which are kept entirely by the White Sox. “I was disappointed and honestly, embarrassed even ... it’s clear that the people who make [the ballpark] work every day aren’t getting what they need. We should take that personally.”
The White Sox are heavily subsidized by the city of Chicago, receiving more than $10 million annually for maintenance and improvements to the stadium. Team owner Jerry Reinsdorf is estimated to have a net worth of $1.8 billion, stemming entirely from his majority ownership stakes in the White Sox (valued at $1.7 billion) and Chicago Bulls (valued $3.5 billion).
The teams themselves are not directly responsible for the wages paid to the third-party/contracted workers at team venues. However, it is within their power to only conduct business with companies who engage in fair contract negotiations with unions such as Unite Here! Local 1, who can mandate livable wages and provide adequate health benefits — or to pressure existing business partners to do so. Currently, no such contract exists between Delaware North and Guaranteed Rate Field workers.
“Any employer bears the responsibility of ensuring that their employees are treated with fairness and given benefits and wages they can thrive on and not just survive on.” Taylor continued. “The wealthier that employer is, the grosser it is for them to be greedy when they could just do the right thing.”