The George Floyd protests inspired San Francisco Giants concession workers to strike for a better contract - and they won

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The George Floyd protests inspired San Francisco Giants concession workers to strike for a better contract - and they won
Workers standing outside Oracle Park following their contract win. Ted Waechter
  • George Floyd protests from last summer inspired San Francisco Giants concession workers to strike.
  • Workers received a $3 per hour raise, additional healthcare benefits, and more pension benefits.

It took Aurora Rodriguez a bit of time to sort through if she was willing to go on strike with her co-workers last month. She's a cook at the San Francisco Giants' Oracle Park and a single mother. The lost pay and potential job loss in the middle of a pandemic was not something she could afford.

But she said she knew that if she and her peers wanted to be treated with dignity, it was the only option.

"I decided, you know what, if this is what we have to do to get results then I'm going to be ready to do it," Rodriguez, who has worked at the ballpark for 20 years, told Insider.

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She said the collective group has been treated poorly, but as a non-white woman, "you're always treated worse."

Her main reason for striking was locking down healthcare for her children. She said she doesn't qualify for subsidized health insurance when she is working.

"Almost everyone I work with is a person of color," Rodriguez said. "We were fighting for our jobs, we were fighting for benefits. It's been years since we had seen a raise. We weren't getting hazard pay, so both of these things influenced our decision to authorize a strike."

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The George Floyd protests inspired San Francisco Giants concession workers to strike for a better contract - and they won
Aurora Rodriguez is a single mother who wanted to strike to receive better healthcare benefits and treatment by employer. Ted Waechter

The concession workers are employed by Bon Appétit Management Company, which the Giants contract.

Rodriguez is one of 950 concession workers in the Unite Here Local 2 union, which represents 14,000 hospitality workers across San Francisco and San Mateo. Stadium workers took a strike vote on September 4 and, according to the union, 96.7% voted to strike.

Unite Here Local 2 President Anand Singh said their contract with Bon Appétit ended in April 2019 so they had been waiting for a new one.

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Union leadership said that while Bon Appétit said workers at Oracle Park would be safe when the ballpark opened up to full capacity in June, indoor mask mandates and social distancing were not being enforced.

Singh said at least 20 ballpark employees caught COVID-19 on the job this summer.

After the workers' strike vote, the Giants organization said in a statement to KPIX 5 CBS San Francisco, "The Giants make the health and safety of everyone working and visiting Oracle Park a top priority. We operate our venue in compliance with local and state health requirements."

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The day the strike was to begin on September 29, the Giants had a home game against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Bon Appétit stepped up and met all of the workers' demands.

The ballpark agreed to enforce mask-wearing and Bon Appétit honored additional health benefits, an immediate $3 an hour raise with additional increases by 2024 totaling $7 an hour, and more pension benefits.

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"We're very happy that we've won basically everything that we asked for at the bargaining table," Rodriguez said. "It was a very hard fight but we're satisfied we got there in the end."

Bon Appétit CEO Fedele Bauccio released a statement on September 29 to NBC Bay Area:

"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."

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Union members voted last week on a new contract through 2024.

Inspired by George Floyd protests, inspiring other workers

Singh said momentum from the George Floyd protests last summer is carrying over to the labor movement.

The majority of Giants concession workers are Black and have dealt with racism all their lives, Singh said, but they are demanding better.

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"Last year when the protests were moving across the country and certainly in the Bay Area, we were making pleas to the Giants at that time, 2020," Singh said, "that they ought to do more during this pandemic to address the economic fallout that the workers were experiencing."

Singh said since the strike vote, the union has been in contact with food service workers all across the country, including HelloFresh. Workers at the meal kit provider are interested in either forming a union of their own or learning strategy from the concession workers.

"I think this is the moment for working people and they're going to stand up and fight back," Singh said.

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