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Service workers at Lambeau Field scheduled to participate in formal union election Sunday

Organizer says NLRB election process is 'an uneven playing field' and disproportionately empowers company

A statue of a man holding a football with his arm outstretched is seen in front of Lambeau Field.
A statue of Curly Lambeau stands tall as fans walk in to Lambeau Field to watch the Green Bay Packers play the New Orleans Saints in a preseason football game Friday, Aug. 19, 2022, in Green Bay, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

Service workers at Lambeau Field are scheduled to participate in a National Labor Relations Board-supervised election on Sunday to determine if they will be granted union representation.

The workers are employed by Delaware North, the food service partner of the Green Bay Packers. Although many game-day positions are done by volunteers, Delaware North employs around 70 vendors in the concourses who sell beer and other beverages.

In late September, a majority of those workers notified Delaware North and the Packers that they were unionizing, according to Peter Rickman, president of the Milwaukee Area Service & Hospitality Workers Union, or MASH. The Lambeau workers would join MASH, which represents workers at Fiserv Forum and other hospitality venues in the Milwaukee area, if they voted in favor of unionization.

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When a majority of workers express interest in joining a union with written cards, the employer is required to immediately bargain with the union or seek an election, according to the National Labor Relations Board, or NLRB.

Last month, Delaware North requested an election, and the federal agency sent a notice of an election on Nov. 7. The Packers have declined to comment on the election. Delaware North did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Rickman said he believes Delaware North, by forcing a formal election, is disregarding a “supermajority” of vendors who signed cards saying they wanted to form a union.

“Unfortunately, Delaware North has hidden behind these legal bureaucratic maneuvers to keep workers from having their union,” Rickman said. “These kinds of elections allow plenty of questionable conduct that isn’t unlawful.”

In its election petition, Delaware North had said it entered into an agreement with the Workers United “pertaining to beer vendors at Lambeau Field,” according to a document filed with the NLRB.

But Workers United also filed a document in the case, saying it wanted to “disclaim any and all interest in representing any of the company’s employees at Lambeau Field.”

Rickman characterized the move as the company essentially trying to choose a union for the workers, rather than allowing workers to choose their union.

“When that other union notified the NLRB and the company that it had no interest in being a part of it, that should have been the end of the story,” Rickman said. “That should have been the point where Delaware North turned around and said, ‘OK, well, there doesn’t need to be an election here.’”

The election will be held inside the conference room in Delaware North’s offices at Lambeau Field on Sunday, Dec. 3. Rickman said he fears that could give the company an unfair advantage in the election to shape workers’ preferences.

“Having to march past the boss’ office, where they can see who’s going in to vote and they can be looking at you conveying, ‘Hey, don’t vote for a union’ — it’s just a broken process,” he said.

“Folks are looking at this election with some resolve to try to win it, but this is a stacked deck,” he continued. “It’s an uneven playing field, and it’s not the way that Lambeau workers should be treated and, frankly, doesn’t square with the values of the Green Bay Packers.”

In professional sports, Rickman said franchises have a lot of leverage to take action behind closed doors to support workers’ ability to organize.

He said the Packers could direct Delaware North to acknowledge the union and call off the election.

“They could make a phone call or (have a) conversations in a conference room with Delaware North saying, ‘Hey, respect the workers, respect their union. Sit down and bargain a union contract with them.’ Because a clear, strong supermajority of the vendors who serve our fans the best in the world — are demanding it,’” Rickman said.