KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Royals have reached an agreement with the union representing their stadium workers, but another legal matter still remains.

Service Employees International Local 1, a labor union, was in labor contract negotiations with the Royals for Kauffman Stadium workers who are SEIU members.

According to a statement from the Royals, Kauffman Stadium workers will be paid $16-$31 an hour. The Ballpark Services, Event Services and Grounds Crew/Tarp Crew will receive regular pay increases, and ushers/bathroom attendants will also get 20% or more pay increases throughout the life of the 3-year contract, the Royals said.

The union previously alleged that employees were in unsafe working conditions since they were restricted from bringing cups to drink water two years ago.

The Royals stated the issue was “amicably resolved back in April during the ordinary course of negotiations.”

The club also responded to what it called “the union’s false public characterization of our good faith negotiations with their bargaining team.”

“We believe the outcome of these negotiations demonstrates to bargaining unit members that we value their work and shows our dedicated fans that we are committed to continuing to provide the best experience possible at Kauffman Stadium,” the statement concluded.

Fighting for wages

SEIU lead organizer Rose Welch said the Royals made the deal sound a lot nicer than it actually is.

SEIU members that work at Kauffman have three separate collective bargaining agreements for three sets of workers.

  • Grounds crew/tarp crew
  • Event Services: tollgate attendants, ticket takers, parking lot attendants, restroom attendants, ticket sellers, ushers
  • Ballpark services: basic level maintenance employees

According to Welch, only one person will make the $31/hour wage because of a chemical handling certification they have. That person has worked for the Royals for almost 40 years and is the highest-paid person of more than 500 stadium workers, according to Welch.

Welch noted the event services bargaining committee held out for higher wages for restroom attendants and ushers who are the lowest hourly paid employees at $16/hour.

They were allowed to be tipped in cash before the pandemic, but Kauffman Stadium has since switched to a cashless system that posed a dramatic decrease in income for those workers.

Welch also noted that tipping declined before COVID-19, and ushers were the main workers who got tips.

According to the CBAs that FOX4 obtained, restroom attendants made $14.50/hour in 2022 with ushers’ wages not far ahead at $14.75/hour.

Both positions’ wages only increase by $0.75 from 2023 to 2024 and by $1 into 2025 to give them an hourly wage of $17.50 in 2025.

While the Royals say there will be a 20% or more increase in pay for both positions, their wages only increase by $1.75 total throughout the life of the three-year contract.

“We felt very strongly that they should be brought up to parity to the same levels as everybody else,” Welch said. “And the Royals did not agree with that. And eventually gave us a last, best and final that either we could accept or nobody would get any raises probably until the next season.

“And given the fact that we were waiting on all of the other contract wins, which would not take effect until after the contract was ratified, including the clean water situation, they took those wages to the members and said, ‘What do you want to do?’ and the members said ‘OK, we’ll take it.'”

Even though the fight was to bring wages up for ushers and restroom attendants, Welch called the new CBAs are a win because of what they gained.

“It took a lot of hard work and a lot of solidarity, but we did manage to get some really good provisions in there, including new labor relations language that protects workers from unfair discipline and allows better legal recourse for contract violations,” Welch said.

New provisions

Among the provisions is labor relations language, which protects workers from unfair discipline and allows for better legal recourse for contract violations.

All three CBAs contain a section for employees to file grievances against their employers. In the previous CBAs, employees could be accompanied by a steward who represents the union to discuss a grievance with their immediate supervisor. If the employee isn’t satisfied with the judgment of the supervisor, they could present a written grievance to the Director of Event Operations, which could lead to arbitration if the grievance is not settled.

The new CBAs for Event Services and Grounds Crew/Tarp Crew expand that section to lay out deadlines for filing grievances and explain the step-by-step process.

That begins with the first informal grievance meeting with an optional steward, which can lead to a formal written grievance that can be sent to any manager of Ballpark Operations or Director of Grounds and Landscaping and would then go to a meeting with the director of the respective departments if the grievance is not settled.

An additional optional step shows that employees can send their grievance to the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service for nonbinding mediation before the grievance can go to arbitration.

Also a new provision is that all supervisors must attend at least one “Effective Contract Administration” training held by the FMCS within the duration of each successive CBA.

Welch said that the training will help limit violations because the Royals don’t give their supervisors any training on labor law or the CBAs.

“Hopefully they happen by accident, and we’re able to resolve them amicably through our negotiated procedure,” she said.

Another new provision in these two CBAs is steps for progressive disciplining, which include coaching, written coaching and suspension before termination. Previously, there were no disciplinary policies in the agreement aside from good cause.

The Grounds/Tarp Crew also gained health insurance benefits in its CBA, the only CBA to have that benefit. That crew has full-time workers that work at Kauffman year-round.

For Event Services, its CBA included a new article on working conditions that put the subject of uniforms, equipment, breaks, facilities and water all in one place.

This provision is where the Royals and SEIU came to a resolution on the water issue with the CBA stating that drinking water must be available to all employees defined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

While the CBAs may be settled, Welch said this is where implementation begins for the union, and the Royals also have some pending business waiting for them.

NLRB charges against Royals

In May, SEIU Local 1 filed 11 federal charges against the Kansas City Royals with the National Labor Relations Board. On Aug. 1, those charges were amended to add more than 30 additional charges.

According to charging documents that FOX4 obtained, the charges include employers disparaging the SEIU to employees.

SEIU opened negotiations with the Royals in October 2022 but didn’t have sessions until December and took more than six months to hash out details, according to Welch. This coincides with bad faith bargaining charges in the documents.

Employers allegedly told employees that the union offered no benefits, blaming the union for the lack of raises, blaming the union for the length of CBA negotiations and telling employees that they could not stand/walk together in groups or pairs, according to court documents.

Workers were also being photographed/surveilled, threatened with discipline if they talked to the media, and one worker was discriminated against for union activities or to discourage them from union activities by assigning them to a more isolated work location, court records say.

“We’re confident that the NLRB is going to do a thorough and fair investigation, and we’re confident that they will come out with a finding of merit in these charges,” Welch said.