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

Sam Spector is a server at Wells Fargo Center, a field attendant at Lincoln Financial Field, and a bartender at Citizens Bank Park. She hasn’t been to the doctor since early in the COVID-19 pandemic, when she was forced out of work.

Once she got back to work, Spector, 43, made too much money for a government-assisted health-care plan, but not enough to buy health insurance for both herself and her 17-year-old daughter. Diabetes and heart problems run in her family, she said, and she worries that she could have health issues she doesn’t know about.

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

With all three contracts expiring this month, the workers want that to change. Members of Local 274 held a picket on Monday outside the Wells Fargo Center demanding a standard minimum wage and health benefits for the hundreds of Aramark employees at all three venues.

At Lincoln Financial Field, food service workers currently have no health-care 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 partial-year prescription and doctor visit coverage, but not hospital emergency care. At Citizens Bank Park, 20 people get year-round insurance while 58 get major medical insurance for six months per year, according to Unite Here.

The union has proposed that any member who works 750 hours per year across all three venues combined should be eligible for full-year health insurance. Aramark has countered with a minimum of 1,500 hours, according to Unite Here.

The union’s contracts with Aramark expire on March 17 for Wells Fargo and Lincoln Financial workers, and will expire at the end of March for Citizens Bank Park workers. Bargaining started in December, and members want one contract for all three facilities.

“We respect the right of our employees to demonstrate and look forward to continuing to bargain in good faith to reach an agreement that works for everyone,” said Aramark spokesperson Sheena Weinstein.

The minimum pay rate also varies among the three facilities. At Wells Fargo Center, utility workers and dishwashers make $14.11 per hour while concession stand workers make $15.29. Concession stand workers start at $15.55 at Lincoln Financial Field, and $16.05 at Citizens Bank Park.

“It’s very confusing for some of our members to even keep up with their paychecks,” said Carlton Epps. He works at all three venues and serves as a shop steward — a liaison between workers and their union — often fielding questions from newer colleagues trying to navigate the different employment agreements.

Epps, 64, has worked at the stadiums since 2003, and he works about 90% of events, but he doesn’t qualify for employer-provided health coverage. The cost of his Health Insurance Marketplace plan has grown to over $400 a month.

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

After taking a hard hit to profitability during the first two years of the pandemic, Aramark has rebounded and shown significant revenue growth in the past two years. The company reported 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 accomplished these results without our extraordinary teams around the globe, who exemplify our ‘Reach for Remarkable’ mindset in all that they do,” CEO John Zillmer said in the company’s November earnings announcement.

Aaron Myers Sr., a warehouse worker at Wells Fargo Center and Citizens Bank Park, said he has no health insurance because he’s not eligible through work. Myers, 57, said it costs about $200 for him to visit the doctor.

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

“I just hope we can sit down and come to an agreement,” Myers said. “One contract would benefit everybody.”

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