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Employees at Kauffman Stadium win a contract with more money and better work protections

 A view of Kauffman Stadium from the press box.
Charlie Riedel
Associated Press
Members of the Kansas City Royals' grounds crew work off the field in preparation for the 2023 baseball season Wednesday, March 29, 2023, at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.

Almost 300 workers who help fans at Royals home games will get raises and better work rules when their newly ratified contract goes into effect.

The people you see working the toll gates, stands and bathrooms at Royals home games just landed themselves raises.

Their union representing nearly 300 people who work on game days ratified a new contract with the team last week. A spokesperson for the Royals said management is pleased with the agreement and will soon finalize it.

“We started in December and we have just now finished,” said Rose Welch, the lead organizer for Service Employees International Union Local 1. “It’s been a really tough contract to bargain. And (union members) made a lot of wins in this contract.”

All 286 Royals event services workers got a $2.75 raise over three years. The first pay bump this summer will bring the lowest-paid union workers at the ballpark, ushers and bathroom attendants, up to $16 an hour.

The contract also changes the way disputes between workers and management are handled.

“The biggest thing that our workers are happy about (is) having a usable, functional grievance procedure that we can use when contract violations happen,” Welch said. “And finally having a written standard fair disciplinary procedure, which they didn't.”

Welch said the new contract will force the Royals to adopt a less confrontational approach to discipline issues and require supervisors to schedule training with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.

”It’s really going to improve the working conditions of these working people and make sure that they can get back to really enjoying their jobs and serving the fans,” Welch said.

In a statement, the Royals said that the organization's pay for game-day stadium workers “falls on the higher end of the MLB wage scales across the league."

One other little thing: travel mugs. Stadium workers don’t like the clear plastic bottles they’ve been forced to use for water on the job.

Major League Baseball developed rules against workers bringing their own cups to games a few years ago to ensure that nobody smuggled weapons, even disassembled firearms, into stadiums that way.

But that left workers with management-supplied water, that some didn’t think was safe, from relatively small uninsulated bottles. The new contract lets them bring their own beverages, in their own containers, as long as they don’t mind security opening the lid and checking for contraband.

Most of the people working games at Kauffman Stadium are not covered by the new contract. Many of them work for companies that provide services, like grounds maintenance, to the Royals. But Welch said the contract will provide leverage for those workers to boost their pay and working conditions.

I’ve been at KCUR almost 30 years, working partly for NPR and splitting my time between local and national reporting. I work to bring extra attention to people in the Midwest, my home state of Kansas and of course Kansas City. What I love about this job is having a license to talk to interesting people and then crafting radio stories around their voices. It’s a big responsibility to uphold the truth of those stories while condensing them for lots of other people listening to the radio, and I take it seriously. Email me at frank@kcur.org or find me on Twitter @FrankNewsman.
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