Target Field criticized for busing in out-of-state concessions workers

Twins players line up for opening day.
The Minnesota Twins players line up along the fist base line on Target Field during opening ceremonies of first home game of the 2016 season on April 11.
Judy Griesedieck for MPR News

The Minnesota Twins are being criticized for busing workers in from out of state and putting them up in hotels to work concession jobs at a time when the state is seeing high unemployment rates among people of color.

Delaware North Sportservice, a New York-based company that provides food, beverage and retail at Target Field, is responsible for all the hiring. The company brought in between 65 and 80 of its employees from other venues in Chicago, Milwaukee and Green Bay over the weekend. It spent an estimated $2,500 just to bus people in, according to general manager Peter Spike.

"We want to hire local, that's our number one priority," Spike said. "Unfortunately the applicants are not there."

Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, a local grassroots organization that advocates for underserved communities and people of color, disagrees. NOC released a video from last year of at least 100 potential employees from temporary agencies waiting in the basement of Target Field for hours to find out whether or not they'd work that day.

Executive Director Anthony Newby said the majority were African-American people recruited from north Minneapolis. At a time when the unemployment rate among African Americans is the second highest in the country at 14 percent, he said Delaware North should've contacted them to fill open jobs this year.

"We just found it odd that rather than reaching back to that pool of workers who clearly wanted a job from last year that they were busing workers in," Newby said. "That was a really odd solution to a labor gap."

The publicly funded stadium cost more than $500 million to build, and Hennepin County sales tax helped pay for it.

But the practice of importing jobs from neighboring states isn't new, especially as the economy improves and the market gets tighter, said Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, who's chair of the Job Growth and Energy Affordability Policy and Finance Committee.

Garofalo knew employers were struggling to fill jobs, but was surprised to hear out of town employees came to Minnesota to work the games.

"It's amazing that businesses are having to go through the extra cost of importing labor from out of state to fill these positions," he said. "It shows how tight the labor market is getting."

Sometimes there is a disconnect between groups who work to help people find jobs and employers looking to fill those jobs. Garofalo says efforts by NOC and some elected officials to get the word out is a step in the right direction.

"Either people aren't aware of the jobs," he said, "or individuals of those skills are lacking."

Employees who came from out of state are on Delaware North's payroll. They're union employees — not temporary workers — represented by Unite Here Local 17. They provide availability and get on the schedule.

"The only reason we would ever go out and look elsewhere for support, is because they've gone through the training that is required if you're an employee of Delaware North to properly take care of the guests from a safety, sanitation, alcohol awareness and guest services standpoint," Spike said.

Two job fairs this Thursday and next week aim to fill 100 to 150 of those union positions at Target Field.

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