Saturday, May 15, 2021
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Giants and food vendor tried to get workers to waive COVID rights

Union squelches embarrassing move to make ballpark employees grant immunity to the big, rich organizations.

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The Giants Opening Day was Friday, April 9.  The organization had been doing a full court press (sorry to mix in basketball metaphors) for days on end about how safe the stadium would be for the fans’ first game back to the stadium since the COVID pandemic began.

But, on Wednesday evening, April 7, the Giants’ food service subcontractor Bon Appetit emailed food service concession workers a directive to “Please be sure that you complete this 2021 Release of Liability before arriving at Oracle Park.”

Some choice words from this release:

“…I agree that, on behalf of myself and my personal representatives, heirs, spouse, guardians, executors, administrators, successors, assigns and next of kin, I and they hereby waive, release, discharge, hold harmless and agree not to sue the released parties noted below with respect to any claim, liability or demand of whatever kind or nature, either in law or in equity (including, without limitation, for personal injuries or wrongful death) that may arise in connection with, or relate in any way to, exposure to or contraction of COVID-19 following my use of a credential, during the providing of my services, or during my participation in any related activities arranged, promoted and/or sponsored by the released parties, including, without limitation, those claims that arise as a result of: (I) the negligence of any of the released parties, and/or (II) the inherent risks associated with visiting any venue during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Whew.

That was written in ALL CAPS, just in case somebody might not have gotten the point that food concession workers — and all their friends, families and acquaintances – would be on their own if they came down with COVID from working at the ballpark.

And who are the “released parties?”

  • The office of the Commissioner of Baseball.
  • Each of the Major League Baseball (MLB) Clubs.
  • Every director, officer, owner, stockholder, trustee, partner, employee, agent, independent contractor and consultant of the above.
  • The owners and operators of the venues in which games in 2021 will be played, and all of their sponsors, contractors, vendors, operators, agencies and advertisers.
  • Licensees and retail, concession, broadcast and media partners of MLB parties.
  • Press and other media.
  • Vendors that may provide testing or medical services.
  • Entities and individuals providing accommodation and transportation to or from baseball venues.
  • Other entities and individuals who enter baseball venues.
  • The parent, subsidiary, affiliated and related companies and officers, directors, employees, agents, licensees, contractors, sub-contractors, insurers, representatives, successors, assigns of each of the foregoing entities and persons.

About the only entity not covered by this release would be little green men landing on the field in a spaceship in the middle of a game.

And by the way, the signers of this release were expected to acknowledge that there may be issues that they do “not know or suspect to exist in his or her favor at the time of executing the release,” but that’s just the way it goes.

Oh, sure, no problem, right?

That’s not the way the leadership of UNITE HERE Local 2, the union that represents most ballpark food concession workers, saw it. On Thursday, the day after workers got this release and the day before Opening Day, Mike Casey, the former president of Local 2, made some calls to Giants and Bon Appetit biggies, letting them know that their demand for this release of liability was about to become a very public issue.

Ballpark workers, after all, are working under a contract with Bon Appetit that is supposed to protect them from the “negligence” of their bosses. All these workers were being asked to do was to throw their contract in the trash can when it came to anything to do with protecting them from disease and death.

Can you imagine how it would go over if the Giants demanded that fans attending the game had to sign such a release?

Fortunately, Casey was able to convince the powers-that-be that this was a fight they did not want, and that the wise course of action was to dump the release, stop asking workers to sign it, and to trash any releases that had already been signed.

Case closed? Not really. This attempt to try to slip a fast one over on us only demonstrates the utter disrespect that Major League Baseball, the Giants and our bosses too often show to their workers.

It also reminds us that the Giants tried to fire us during the pandemic, only to be beaten back and forced to apologize. It also calls to mind how sports team owners made billions during the pandemic, while doing next to diddly-squat for their laid off workers.

Clearly there are struggles ahead, especially as we try to negotiate a new ballpark contract in the coming months.

Not to mention the upcoming reopening of the Warrior’s Chase Center, where Bon Appetit also runs the food service concessions, and where workers have yet to achieve a first contract.

Play ball.

Marc Norton is employed as a cashier at the Giants’ Oracle Park and at the Warriors’ Chase Center. His website is at www.MarcNortonOnline.wordpress.com.

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