Detroit OKs workplace standards board for arena workers

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit ― The Detroit City Council unanimously voted Tuesday to create an Industry Standards Board for arena workers at Little Caesars Arena, Ford Field and Comerica Park.

The city previously passed an ordinance in 2021 to create an Industry Standards Board, which labor leaders at the Service Employees International Union Local 1 say is the first-of-its-kind in the nation. The ordinance allows workers in a common industry to join together to petition and form a tripartite table of workers, employer associations and government representatives to recommend industry-wide workplace standards.

A worker paints lines on the track at Monster Jam at Ford Field.

On Tuesday, more than a dozen SEIU members joined the council's formal session to comment in support of creating an Industry Standards Board for Arena Workers. They said the board would assist the city in providing recommendations for basic health, safety and job standards through a public process driven by workers and their communities.

According to the resolution, the Industry Standards Board have the authorization to gather information through an investigation, including reports from both employee and management perspective, distribution and gathering of surveys; outreach by utilizing worker organizations to assist in the collection of required information and engage workers in the process.

"Employers in the subject industry are strongly encouraged to assist in the dissemination of information and promotion of an Industry Standards Board," according to the resolution.

The board will have power, through the council's ordinance, to evaluate their findings regarding factors that may contribute to a shortage of workers or difficulty retaining workers in the arena industry; conduct educational outreach that increases public participation about practices that may negatively impact workers, consumers and city residents; "consider the required level of compensation in a subject industry to provide for family-supporting wages sufficient to protect the health of residents and consider standards for the subject industry that would improve the health of its workers and the general community," according to the resolution.

Prior to issuing any recommendation, the board shall hold a public hearing regarding the subject at a time and location convenient to employees and must include interpretation services.

The Industry Standards Board could only be established after the council received an adequate petition report from the city's Civil Rights, Inclusion and Opportunity Department. The next step is to appoint representatives to the board.

Nine Industry Standards Board appointments shall be individuals who either live or work in the city, appointed as follows: three members that are employees, or representatives who have been chosen by workers in the subject industry, three from Mayor Mike Duggan; and three from the City Council.

Workers construct a stage on the field of Comerica Park in Detroit on July 7 for three back-to-back weekend concerts by Chris Stapleton, Billy Joel and Def Leppard and Mötley Crüe.

Workers told City Council members there is inconsistent pay, working hours and expectations at Detroit's sports arenas and that multiple employees work at all three to make ends meet.

Porcha Perry is a team member at Ford Field, a housekeeper at Comerica Park and also a security officer at City Shield Security Services. As a single mother working three jobs, Perry said it's not easy and she often has to miss quality time with her children because one job isn't enough.

"With this board, we could address the low wages so I can so I can afford to spend more quality time with my family," Perry told council members. "Many Black and Brown and single-parent arena workers are experiencing this same issue, as they work multiple jobs to sustain their families. With this board, we will have a say in decisions about the wages, working conditions and hours we need. Together, we can spark change across all arenas.”

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1 members Felisha Evans, center, of Grosse Pointe, and Paulette Compass, right, of Detroit.

City Council President Mary Sheffield thanked members of SEIU for showing up and delivering more than 150 signatures in support of arena workers. Sheffield told The News following the meeting it was a proud moment for her to see the first standards board established under the previous ordinance she sponsored with SEIU.

"It gives workers a seat at the table with their employers to help determine the starts and wages working people across our city deserve," Sheffield said. "Workers across various industries including fast-food, healthcare, long-term care and beyond have the opportunity to publicly organize and demand a voice on the job and a stronger say in the conditions of their workplace."

City Council President Mary Sheffield, right, sponsored the ordinance allowing the establishment of boards that can set workplace standards for workers in a common industry.

After the council vote, SEIU Local 1 President Genie Kastrup said Detroit's first Industry Standards Board will bring workers one step closer to the table with employers to advocate for "what they need to thrive — not just survive."

"The powerful testimonies that we heard from the Local 1 members today is a clear indication that Detroit can and will prosper when working people have a voice on the job. I am proud of the progress being made in Detroit and applaud the Detroit City Council, Local 1 working families, and community leaders who have come together to move Detroit forward," Kastrup said in a statement.

Twitter: @SarahRahal_