, , ,

Service workers at Green Bay’s historic Lambeau Field work to form a union

Workers have signed authorization cards, but it's unclear if contractor will request formal election

Clouds and a blue sky can be seen behind Lambeau Field
Lambeau Field in Aug. 2020. Angela Major/WPR

About 70 service workers at historic Lambeau Field are trying to form a union, with guidance from organizers who helped employees at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee win recognition.

The Lambeau workers are not employed by the Green Bay Packers. They’re employees of Delaware North, the stadium’s food service partner.

In late September, a majority of workers notified Delaware North and the Packers that they were unionizing, according to Peter Rickman, president of the Milwaukee Area Service & Hospitality Workers Union.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Last week, the workers sent Delaware North a formal request for recognition, after signing union authorization cards, said Rickman, who previously helped workers at Fiserv Forum unionize.

He said the Lambeau Field vendors seeking union representation are the people fans would find throughout the concourses selling beer and other beverages.

“Whether we’re talking about the world-class venue that is Fiserv Forum or historic Lambeau Field, the vendors play a really critical role for these food and beverage operations,” Rickman said

Delaware North could request the union go through a formal election process with the National Labor Relations Board, Rickman said. The company has 14 days to trigger an election, but it’s unclear if that period started in late September or last week, he said.

“It’s something that could be litigated,” he said. “But the truth is, if we’re talking about litigating day X versus day Y, we’re just missing the point here, which is that a clear, strong super majority of Lambeau vendors have signed authoritative cards declaring that they are a union, and that they are looking for the company to sit down and negotiate a contract with them.”

The Packers and Delaware North declined to comment Monday.

Rickman said the process of establishing a union started this past spring, when Lambeau Field workers reached out to the Milwaukee Area Service & Hospitality Workers, also known as MASH. In addition to Fiserv, the union represents workers at six venues operated by the Pabst Theater Group, including Pabst Theater, Riverside Theater, Turner Hall, The Fitzgerald, The Back Room at Collectivo and Miller High Life Theatre.

“It was Lambeau vendors talking to one another about the issues, and how they can address them and arriving at the conclusion that the best way to address the issues that matter to them was through the union,” he said. “MASH was providing some of the guidance, direction and structure to that, and helping advise and answer questions.”

One of the major concerns among the workers was their commission rate, or their cut of sales made. The union said Delaware North has “slashed” those rates from 10 percent to 5 percent in the last couple of years.

“The compensation structure for vendors in professional sports arenas generally has for decades been routed in a commission-based structure,” Rickman said. “It’s not an unfair way for employers to pay those who move product at high volume. It’s an incentive for folks to do it well.”

Workers aren’t forming a union out of spite for the Packers, Lambeau Field or Delaware North, Rickman said. Rather, they’re forming a union because they enjoy coming to work.

“The Lambeau vendors here didn’t say, ‘Well, you’re slashing our pay, we’re just going to quit and go somewhere else,’” Rickman said. “They said, ‘No, we love the work that we do. We love the fans at Lambeau Field. We love the Green Bay Packers. We want to change these jobs. We want to improve them.’”

He said employees unionizing at one of the most iconic venues in professional sports could serve as an example to others across the state, providing the labor movement with a shot in the arm.

“If working-class people around Wisconsin — whether they’re working in a kitchen, in a factory or any other type of job — look at this and are inspired, saying, ‘You know what, if regular people just like me can do this at Lambeau Field, we can do it in our workplace, too’ — I think that’s how we’re going to build the union movement for the 21st century,” he said.