Advocates for the folks who clean up Oriole Park after ballgames have been going after Peter Angelos for a while now. The United Workers Association wants the stadium’s cleaning-crew members paid a living wage, which in Baltimore now means $9.06 an hour. They are currently getting $7.
Angelos doesn’t own the Camden Yards stadium or hire the workers; the Maryland Stadium Authority does. But UWA knows that Angelos has enough sway with the MSA to get what he wants, and officials for the group contend that more than two years ago, during initial negotiations to settle the pay dispute, Angelos personally promised the workers, many of whom live in impoverished conditions or in public shelters, a living wage, even if he would have to dip into his pockets to make that happen. Besides, he’s gotten hundreds of millions of dollars lawyering for little people in Maryland, and he owns the team whose fans make all the mess.
For reneging on that deal, UWA members and officials followed Angelos up to Pittsburgh for last year’s All-Star game and yelled at him on the city streets through megaphones.
That tactic, embarrassing as it was for the allegedly pro-labor lawyer and champion of the downtrodden, didn’t make Angelos follow through on the living wage pledge. If anything, says the UWA, the stadium workers’ plight has gotten worse. The subcontractor that hires cleaning crews has started charging the day laborers $6 for the ride from the downtown employment offices to Camden Yards on game nights.
“That’s even though the stadium is within walking distance,” says Greg Rosenthal, a spokesperson for the UWA. “We talked to one woman who was getting charged even though she wasn’t getting any rides.”
That deduction puts cleaners’ earnings at below the minimum wage called for by state and federal law.
So the UWA has drawn its line in the sand. Angelos and the MSA have until Sept. 1 to make the living wage happen. Starting next week, the group will put together caravans of workers and supporters and take their case around the state. The first demonstrations of what they’re calling a Broken Promises tour are scheduled for next weekend, highlighted by a march down Broadway in Baltimore.
And what if Angelos et al. don’t meet their benchmarks?
“There’s the possibility of civil disobedience,” says Rosenthal. “That’s all we’re saying for now.”