Unions Battle Over Aramark Workers

As the under-construction Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh heads for an early September opening, hundreds of Aramark service workers and their unions are quarreling over who should represent them.

At issue is the status of workers who thought their jobs would transfer over to the Consol from the old Mellon Arena. Aramark reportedly sent letters to some 400 employees Feb. 12 informing them that they must reapply for those jobs to work in the new venue, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Longtime Mellon Arena employees fear they could lose seniority, benefits and even their jobs in the move. Union members staged a protest of the venue Feb. 18.

The protest dissolved into bickering between two unions vying to represent the workers: Workers United, affiliated with Service Employees International Union, and United Here Local 57, affiliated with the AFL-CIO. In the meantime, the Consol Energy Center reportedly will need about 600 workers to staff the building when it opens in the fall.

“It shouldn’t be about two unions fighting with each other. It should be about protecting Pittsburghers and protecting workers,” Workers United rep Sam Williamson told the paper.

The turf war is apparently being played out nationwide, with AFL-CIO- and SEIU-affiliated unions and splinter groups fighting for the right to represent hotel, cafeteria and stadium workers.

The NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, which will call the Consol Energy Center home when it opens, have said the team wants Aramark’s employees to work in the new venue and retain their seniority.

In the meantime, Penguins CEO Ken Sawyer conducted a media tour of the $321 million building, and told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette he expects an opening event – most likely a concert – to take place as early as September.

Piping and concrete for the ice surface has already been installed, upper and lower bowls and suites are in place, and concourses and locker rooms are taking shape, according to the paper.

Crews reportedly will begin installing seats and putting together a massive high-def scoreboard soon.

The Pens intend to send notices to 14,000 season-ticket holders before the end of March showing the location of their Consol Energy Center seats, and apparently not a moment too soon.

“Their anxiety is very high,” Sawyer told the Post-Gazette. “They want to know where they will be.”

The 18,087-capacity Consol Energy Center reportedly has a waiting list of 7,500 for season tickets, and has already sold out all 66 suites.