South Philly stadium workers want Aramark to give health insurance and a standard minimum wage

Sam Spector is a server at the Wells Fargo Center, a field assistant at Lincoln Financial Field and a bartender at Citizens Bank Park. She has not been to the doctor since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, when she was forced to leave her job.

Once back at work, Spector, 43, made too much money for a government-assisted health plan, but not enough to buy health insurance for both herself and her 17-year-old daughter . Her family has diabetes and heart problems, she said, and she worries she may have health problems she doesn’t know about.

At South Philadelphia sports facilities, food service workers like Spector are employed by Aramark, and many of them work at two or all three facilities. But the company has three separate contracts with the workers’ union, Unite Here Local 274.

With three contracts expiring this month, workers want that to change. Members of Local 274 picketed Monday outside the Wells Fargo Center to demand a standard minimum wage and health benefits for Aramark’s hundreds of employees at all three locations.

At Lincoln Financial Field, food service workers currently do not have a health plan, according to the union.

Fewer than 20 of Aramark’s hundreds of Wells Fargo Center workers have year-round health insurance, the union said, while 210 qualify for part-year prescription and doctor visit coverage, but not hospital emergency care. At Citizens Bank Park, 20 people get insurance year-round, while 58 have major health insurance for six months of the year, according to Unite Here.

The union has proposed that any member who works 750 hours a year at the three positions combined should be entitled to year-round health insurance. Aramark has countered with a minimum of 1,500 hours, according to Unite Here.

Union contracts with Aramark expired March 17 for workers at Wells Fargo and Lincoln Financial, and will expire at the end of March for workers at Citizens Bank Park. Negotiations began in December and the partners want a contract for all three facilities.

We respect our employees’ right to protest and look forward to continuing to negotiate in good faith to reach an agreement that works for everyone, Aramark spokeswoman Sheena Weinstein said.

The minimum wage also varies between the three facilities. At the Wells Fargo Center, utility workers and dishwashers earn $14.11 an hour while concession workers earn $15.29. Concession stand workers start at $15.55 at Lincoln Financial Field and $16.05 at Citizens Bank Park.

It is very confusing for some of our members to even keep up with their paychecks, said Carlton Epps. He works at all three locations and serves as a trade representative, a liaison between workers and their union, often answering questions from newer colleagues trying to navigate the various labor agreements.

Epps, 64, has worked at the stadiums since 2003 and works about 90 percent of the events, but does not qualify for employer-provided health coverage. The cost of his health insurance marketplace plan has grown to $400 a month.

Epps said he thinks it’s a shame that he’s on a government-subsidized health plan while working for a company with billions in revenue.

After suffering a sharp impact on profitability during the first two years of the pandemic, Aramark has bounced back and shown significant revenue growth in the past two years. The company posted more than $18.8 billion in revenue and net income of $673 million in its most recent fiscal year, which ended in September.

We could not have achieved these results without our extraordinary teams around the world, who exemplify our Reach for Remarkable mentality in everything they do, CEO John Zillmer said in the company’s November earnings announcement.

Aaron Myers Sr., a warehouse worker at the Wells Fargo Center and Citizens Bank Park, said he does not have health insurance because he is not eligible for work. Myers, 57, said it costs her about $200 to visit the doctor.

Myers makes $14.42 an hour at the Wells Fargo Center and about $16 an hour at Citizens Bank Park. He has been working at the sports complex since 2015.

I just hope we can sit down and come to an agreement, Myers said. A contract would benefit everyone.

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