Ticket Sellers Set Strike Vote for Today (Monday, 8/15) Against United States Tennis Association;
Dispute Clouds U.S. Open Ticket Services, Who have they been training on those Ticketmaster Machines?
FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY August 15 — The storm brewing over the 2005 U.S. Open is nearing hurricane level — The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Ball Park Ticket Sellers Local F-72 has scheduled a strike vote for tonight (Monday, August 15). The unresolved contract dispute between the union and the United States Tennis Association (USTA) may lead to more ticket buyers getting soaked by Ticketmaster, which normally showers ticket buyers with extra fees, service surcharges, and delivery charges.
USTA has been training non-union and inexperienced people on the operation of Ticketmaster machines at the Tennis Center, which leads to speculation that if the USTA forces the union to walk out, U.S. Open patrons will be buying all their on-site tickets through Ticketmaster.
The union is filing with the National Labor Relations Board an Unfair Labor Practice charge against the USTA for bad faith bargaining and failure to bargain regarding its subcontracting of the work.
“We’re simply asking for a modest cost-of-living increase for the life of the contract and the rehiring of our work team, some of whom have been serving tennis fans for twenty years,” said Michael G. McCarthy, president of Local F-72. “The public shouldn’t have to pay processing fees, service fees and delivery fees. Our work shouldn’t be outsourced or subcontracted.”
There are no provisions for health or pension benefits in the contract that expired last year, and none have been requested by the union for the new contract.
Over the last decades, the USTA has been moving more and more tickets to electronic off-site systems. Today, fans of the Open are increasingly forced to purchase tickets through Ticketmaster and pay its high service fees and handling charges in addition to the list price.
Up until now, tickets to the U.S. Open have been sold at face value by Union workers at the Tennis Center ticket windows. The top ticket price to the U.S. Open is $800.
According to the Union, the USTA has been outsourcing or subcontracting services over the last few years, and has only two unions remaining on its payroll: the ushers and the ticket sellers.
Ball Park Ticket Sellers Local F-72 has been manning the ticket windows for the U.S. Open since it opened 27 years ago on 47 acres of New York City parkland. The small 166-member union also represents the ticket sellers at Yankee and Shea stadiums. Ticket sellers usually work 10 or more hours per day, 7 days a week for the two weeks of the U.S. Open.
Today, the White Plains-based USTA and its linked organization, the United States Tennis Association/ National Tennis Center (USTA / NTC), thrive thanks to $200 million in tax-exempt New York City Development Agency bonds, which helped fund the 23,000-seat Arthur Ashe Stadium, the largest tennis stadium in the world with 90 luxury suites, five restaurants and a multi-floor players’ lounge.
In 2003, USTA / NTC, a not-for-profit corporation, reported $62.3 million in income ($12.7 million after expenses). USTA / NTC is a separate corporation from the United States Tennis Association, Inc. (USTA), which is also a not-for-profit. Though both corporations share a White Plains office and staff, financial information for the USTA is not available from easily accessed public sources.
The U.S. Open is supported by CBS Sports, USA Networks, IBM, JP MorganChase, MassMutual, American Express, Continental Airlines, Heineken, Cannon, Pepsi and The New York Times, among others.