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The new state-of-the-art Minnesota Vikings football stadium, which first opened in fall 2016, helped bring Super Bowl LII to Minneapolis this year and will bring the college basketball Final Four in 2019.

Super Bowl brings work, parties, protests

From the Minneapolis Labor Review, January 26, 2018

By Steve Share, Labor Review editor

MINNEAPOLIS —Not unlike the complicated relationship between fans and the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota workers are having a complicated relationship with Super Bowl LII.

Years of debate preceded building the new Vikings football stadium — arguments which haven’t been forgotten and likely never will.

To proponents, the new stadium has delivered on construction jobs, delivered on $1 billion in surrounding development, and now has delivered on bringing the Super Bowl to town February 4.

Still unknown, whether the new stadium will help the Vikings deliver a Super Bowl win!

(As the Labor Review went to press January 18, whether the Vikings would be playing in the Super Bowl awaited the outcome of the January 21 play-off game with Philadelphia).

Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis will be a union event — from the workers who built the stadium, to the players on the field, to the stagehands running the lights and sound, to the food vendors in the stadium, to the bus and light rail operators getting ticket-holders to and from the game, to the staff serving guests at the major downtown hotels.

And, for several unions, the coming of the Super Bowl also brought increased leverage for organizing campaigns and clout at the bargaining table — and two threatened strikes.

The NFL Players Association even weighed in on the side of workers in two local disputes.

DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFLPA, sent letters in January putting bosses at the University of Minnesota and Franklin Street Bakery on notice that the football players stand squarely — and publicly — on the side of working people in Minnesota.

Through their union, the athletes stood in solidarity with bakery workers fighting for a union in Minneapolis and with Teamsters who were weighing a strike at University of Minnesota campuses statewide.

Workers speak

With the Super Bowl now at hand, workers and their representatives from a variety of sectors spoke with the Labor Review about what the Super Bowl means for their work.

“The impact on our industry is huge — not just at U.S. Bank Stadium but at our 22 union hotels, which are all full for 7-10 days around the event,” reported Wade Luneberg, political director for UNITE HERE Local 17. “All our sports venues and convention centers are both busy.”

“Even more unique,” he added, “our 1,300 workers at the airport are going to be working round the clock — more than they already do.”

One of those workers is Local 17 member Jill Gergen, who has worked 21 years at the airport for HMS host. She reported, “I’m taking a full extra shift. From a labor perspective, that’s awesome.”

Johanna Harley, 17-year Local 17 member, said “it’s really, really exciting to be able to work an event like the Super Bowl.” She’ll be an attendant at a suite at U.S. Bank Stadium and working as a banquet server for a Super Bowl party at the Minneapolis Hilton.

Members of IBEW Local 292 have been impacted by preparations for the Super Bowl, not just at the stadium, but also at the airport and Mall of America.

Myles Lembke, a 20-year Local 292 member, has been working full-time at the airport for a year for Hunt upgrading the cellular antenna system, upgrading the security system, and doing other upgrades in advance of the Super Bowl. “That’s been the focus. Get it done by then,”  he said.

“I think the Super Bowl has been fantastic for labor in general in the metro area,” he said. “Everybody I’ve been talking to has had extra work because of it.”

Terrence Mohs, an 8-year member of IBEW Local 292, began his career as a journeyman electrician working to build U.S. Bank Stadium. He became a foreman at the stadium and continues to work full-time at the stadium for Gephart. “I’ve been the main support for every event at the stadium since it opened,” he said. Now he’s witnessing and playing his part in the upgrading and transformation of the Vikings stadium into a Super Bowl stadium. “The Super Bowl takes a lot more power than the standard game does,” he noted. “We will have somewhere between 18-30 licensed electricians on site the day of the game… to make sure the show keeps going…”

“I think the place will be an awesome place for the Super Bowl this year,” Mohs said. “Me and my guys are excited to work it; it’s a once in a lifetime experience.”

Bill McCarthy, then president of the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation (at podium, right), kicked off a February 6, 2012 news conference urging support for building a new Vikings football stadium in Minneapolis at the Metrodome site. The news conference showed support for the new stadium from labor, community non-profits focused on jobs, and business leaders, all backing the plan proposed by Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak and city council president Barb Johnson.

A vision realized

Bill McCarthy, now president of the Minnesota AFL-CIO, is one of the labor leaders who led efforts to get the new stadium approved— and later was appointed to serve on the stadium commission tasked with overseeing the project.

”Right from that point, the stage was set for making sure labor was present and we would have a project labor agreement that worked for the trades,” he said. “Following that, [the focus] became working with the management company to make sure it was wall to wall union.”

“Throughout this process, the Minnesota Vikings have been supportive of our labor efforts and they have continued to be,” McCarthy added.

A committee of labor unions met to coordinate Super Bowl preparations and, McCarthy said, “our partnership in this with the NFL has been really good.”

“Our perspective is all about the workers and being paid a fair wage and that is happening,” McCarthy said. Looking forward, he said, it will be important to ensure that “these large events coming here are in our community’s benefit and labor’s benefit.”

Still, not everyone is convinced. CTUL and other labor and community organizations plan a “Super Bowl Week of Actions” to demand that the corporate elites who are financing the Super Bowl festivities do much more “to invest and give back to our communities.”

Note: The above story includes reporting by the St. Paul Union Advocate.

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