Royals employee union protests working conditions at Kauffman Stadium

Royals employees speak out against unsafe working conditions. // Photo by Chris Ortiz

Royals employees are speaking out against what they claim to be unsafe working conditions at Kauffman Stadium, including sub-standard drinking water and managerial policies.

For years, employees could bring their own insulated water bottles to games, but about two years ago, Royals management allegedly banned personal water bottles. As a solution to this change, they gave each person a plastic Royals-branded squeeze bottle to refill throughout the day, but these bottles weren’t designed for all-day use.

“They’re issued small plastic Royals-branded squeeze bottles, which leaves [the staff] with warm water that runs out halfway through the game,” Christian Rak, Missouri Director of Service Employees International Union Local 1, says. “These are workers who are either stuck in a hot box or constantly moving for hours on end to serve the fans—they need to stay hydrated to stay safe. But the Royals are no longer allowing them to do that, and we don’t understand why.”

The Royals employ more than 250 SEIU Local 1 Event Services workers, and after years of being afraid to drink the water, these workers decided to share their stories. They claim the water they are given comes out of large containers that are filled by a hose at the beginning of the day.

This alleged unsupervised and unsanitary handling of the water jugs makes workers fearful of drinking from them. An usher at Kauffman recounts seeing fans dipping their cups into the containers that are reserved for employee refills.

“I’ve worked at Kauffman for 30 years, and I haven’t drank their water unless I absolutely had to,” Sheri Lasswell, a ticket taker at Kauffman Stadium, says. “I have seen them dump the water jugs and put the lids right back on—they don’t wash them or dry them. All we’re asking is for the Royals to provide us insulated cups or let us bring our own, and they just refuse.”

Each service employee will work at 60 or more games throughout the year, spending most of each day on their feet regardless of the weather. Water is a basic necessity, and workers are confused about why it isn’t provided.

“Without any question, without any bargaining, I would expect an employer to offer us clean drinking water,” a tollbooth attendant at Kauffman Stadium says.

SEIU has already made several proposals to help this issue, including one that suggested allowing workers to bring their own bottles again. The Royals have allegedly refused to accept any of their proposals. The most recent proposal requested that the Royals provide water that meets Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) criteria, which employees claim was also rejected.

According to Luisangel Rodriguez, a spokesperson for SEIU Local 1 in Missouri, the negotiations are ongoing. There is no timeline for when discussions around this issue will be completed.

Categories: Sports