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Concession workers at Barclays Center avoid strike and reach tentative agreement with Levy

The employees who serve food and drinks at Barclays Center are important to the fan experience at Nets and Liberty games. Now, they have a new deal.

Service workers at Barclays Center celebrate contract announcement
July18, 2023: Workers celebrate outside of Barclays Center following announcement of tentative agreement between workers and Levy. Photo courtesy of Unite Here
Unite Here

“Thank you Levy for doing the right thing.”

It’s Hot Labor Summer! Across the United States, workers have fought for better conditions, better treatment, and better benefits from the bosses. With income inequality growing more and more by the day, workers are demanding their fair share. There have been some major victories and many more battles to come, the tides are starting to shift in ways that we haven’t seen in quite some time. Closer to home, workers that Brooklyn Nets and New York Liberty fans see at the Barclays Center are making waves of their own.

On the night of the NBA Draft back on June 28, workers at Barclays Center rallied outside of the arena for a fair contract. Negotiations had broken down between the workers from Unite Here Local 100 and Levy, the management company that is partnered with Barclays Center. At the rally on the 28th, the phrase “one job should be enough” rang out as NBA Draftees and major media personalities observed the scene as they entered the arena.

At the rally, it was also announced that there would be a strike authorization vote set for July 17th if a fair contract agreement wasn’t reached. As we drew closer to that date, UNITE HERE kept the spotlight on Levy during an incredibly busy month of events for the Barclays Center. That spotlight combined with bravery and resilience from the workers led to an agreement being announced before a strike vote was authorized.

Unite Here workers celebrate at Barclays Center
Unite Here workers speak at Barclays Center following announcement of tentative agreement. Photo via Unite Here

At the press conference on the 17th, workers highlighted the wins they obtained in the new contract. For starters, workers receive raises ranging between $5.00-$11.20 an hour over the course of the contract. At the rally in June, healthcare was a major point of contention as workers had to jump through hoops to obtain coverage. Although they were aiming to have 200 workers qualify for Levy’s insurance under the contract, they were able to have 100 workers qualify automatically for coverage and it would be free for their families as well. Other workers can obtain coverage if they are able to work around 800-900 hours. Those hours aren’t limited to just Barclays Center as workers are able to work at other Levy locations.

The contract also birthed a training program that will receive thousands of dollars in additional funding from Levy that gives workers the opportunity to learn new skills and climb the ladder. Union President Jose Maldonado noted the program is currently in its infant stage and hopes to have it up and running by next year. The contract runs for five years and is retroactive to last year.

The best work environments are ones where workers:

  • look out for each other
  • support each other
  • help each other as they climb the professional ladder
  • create healthy spaces where workers feel comfortable and safe around each other

One worker, Miguel, spoke about his journey as a worker and the various skills he has learned throughout his time working at the Barclays Center. He closed his speech by saying

“I wanna thank y’all for helping me, for the 100 for giving me this opportunity to train people because I train people, too.”

When you look out for each other, everybody wins.

Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso spoke about the workers and contract, saying

“Without these workers fighting every single day to make sure that they got the respect that they deserve and they got a contract that they deserve and that they earned,” the Beep said. “They weren’t asking for too much. They were asking for the work that they put in, the sweat and the tears to make this work, and finally Levy gave us the contract that we wanted.”

UNITE HERE Local 100 at Barclays Center
Unite Here Local 100 worker Lashawn Saunders speaks at rally announcing tentative agreement

Lashawn Saunders, a concession stand lead and one of the members who sat at the table during the negotiations, spoke about the new agreement:

“We got affordable health care. We raised the standards for the concession workers. We are very happy for this [agreement].”

From experience, labor negotiations can get messy. When money is on the line, things get testy and sometimes frustrations can boil over. I’ve seen sessions get intense and end early so as to not to inflame the situation any further. Now that this negotiation reached the finish line, I asked union President Jose Maldonado what the workers gained as it relates to their relationship with Levy:

“They gained power, they gained power. They gained a voice on the job, and they were heard.”

We sometimes tend to forget the folks behind the scenes. In large venues like the Barclays Center, it takes everybody coming together as one to bring us the best entertainment possible. The athletes and entertainers get top billing, but the folks on the ground who keep the place running, make sure everything is of top tier quality, and who make sure fans have a good experience in the building play a large part as well. They’re the folks that fall into the background, but ensure that our time in the building is a great one. They deserve our respect and appreciation. With this contract, the workers are hoping that the financial, educational, and healthcare gains will ensure their safety and stability in an increasingly expensive city like New York. When workers win, we all win.

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At the presser, Unite Here Local 100 President Jose Maldonado noted that workers will soon be negotiating with Madison Square Garden on a new contract. I asked Maldonado to look ahead to those sessions and he told the press:

“Madison Square Garden really has always set the standard for workers and wages across New York and New Jersey, and we respect Mr. [James] Dolan for that. And, he’s got some new competition now so let’s see how he responds.”

A little competition between the city’s two teams is always a great thing.