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Council Delays Security Contract for Levi’s Stadium, Aims to Increase Minimum Wage to $15/hour

Levi’s Stadium could be without security if the contractor that provides those services doesn’t bend to political pressure to employ union labor.

The issue dominated a good portion of the Santa Clara City Council’s Tuesday night meeting. The Council–acting as the Stadium Authority Board–was set to approve the renewal of four contracts relating to stadium operations. Contracts exceeding $250,000 must get Stadium Authority Board approval before the 49ers Stadium Management Company (StadCo) can employ contractors for services.

One of those contracts was with Landmark Event Staffing Services, which provides security for events at the stadium. However, labor union leaders and members of the Council and public decried Landmark’s lack of employing union labor, with many suggesting that the Council should obligate the company to do so.

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However, City Attorney Brian Doyle said a U.S. Supreme Court Ruling precludes the Council from mandating that a contract be union as a provision for approval. He added that it raises “interesting labor law questions” and “extremely complicated” legal issues.

“It appears the unions want to organize these workers, and they want some help from the City,” he said.

David Urhausen, political director for South Bay Labor Council–a San Jose-based organization representing labor unions–said the employees should be allowed to decide for themselves whether they want to avail themselves to the services a union provides.

However, nothing the City could do would prevent workers from organizing under the National Labor Relations Act, a piece of federal legislation from 1935 that specifies how workers are able to unionize.

Mike Harrison, CEO for Landmark, said many of the people his company employs work only a couple hundred hours a year and, thus, would not even qualify for union benefits. When asked by Vice Mayor Dominic Caserta whether Landmark would “in good faith” consider opening a dialogue with labor unions to start the conversation, Harrison said he had “no authority to answer that in a public forum.”

Jim Mercurio, vice president of stadium ops and general manager of Levi’s Stadium, said he was satisfied with how Landmark treats its employees, providing them holidays off, free snacks, uniforms and laundry, providing training that enables them to work as security guards at other venues. Anyway, he added, there are no union contractors that do the work in question.

Denying the contract does a “disservice” to Santa Clarans and is “putting people in jeopardy,” Mercurio said.

“These people treat their employees great. Labor peace has no bearing whatsoever,” he said.

Mayor Lisa Gillmor said she would like to see labor peace–i.e., an agreement between a company and a union that the company will not resist the union’s attempts to organize. She added that it was “naive” to think that the issue of union labor would not return on this matter.

Mercurio sniped back that it was “naive” to believe that union labor is needed for the sort of services Landmark provides.

The issue divided the Council. Caserta’s motion to continue the item to the Council’s April 11 meeting passed 4-3 with Council Members Pat Kolstad, Teresa O’Neill and Patricia Mahan voting “no.” Even Caserta expressed concerns and said he wanted the item continued to get various questions answered, specifically how unionizing helps workers employed by Landmark for stadium security. He said the benefit was still “nebulous.”

On a similar topic, the Council also gave direction to City employees to draft an ordinance to increase the minimum wage to $15/hour by 2019.

Santa Claran Hosam Haggag said he sees the worker retention ordinance the Council recently passed, affordable housing requirements and increasing the minimum wage as “levers to action.” He suggested the Council consider a $15/hour minimum wage for businesses with fewer than 25 employees and a $16.50/hour minimum wage for all other businesses in order to be a “magnet for attracting talent.”

Joe Siecinski, with the Chamber of Commerce, said the Chamber is interested in assessing the job loss such a policy would create.

Caserta said that the Council has been meaning to raise the minimum wage for a while but that it “just got away from us.” He added that once the ordinance comes back to the Council he “expects the Chamber to speak in favor of it.” He called the Council “progressive.”

Scott Lane said while people could potentially lose their jobs, but “we need to have people vote with their wallets.”

Council Member Kathy Watanabe called raising the minimum wage a “step in the right direction.”

“I see a lot of unstocked shelves, and it is probably because a lot of people can’t afford to live here,” she said.

The Council unanimously approved having the city manager’s office return to the Council with options on how to go about raising the minimum wage.

The Council will hold a special meeting on April 11. Its next regular meeting is 7 p.m. on April 18 in the Council Chambers located at Santa Clara City Hall, 1500 Warburton Ave.

If you would like to share your thoughts, please email your letter to scweekly@ix.netcom.com for publication. Please include your name and phone number with your submission–phone numbers will not be published. Letters to the Editor should be limited to one hundred and fifty words.

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