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Kentucky Group Wants Living Wage For Butchertown Stadium Workers

Rendering courtesy Louisville City FC

The Kentucky chapter of Jobs With Justice is asking Metro Council to urge Louisville City FC owners to work toward agreement on wages for stadium workers. The council is expected  to vote Thursday on whether to approve a $30 million bonding measure to buy land in the city’s Butchertown neighborhood for a massive stadium development project for the soccer team.

In a letter sent Tuesday, Kentucky Jobs with Justice co-chair Richard Becker said Louisville City FC's proposal to pay stadium workers $10 an hour makes "no serious effort to raise real household incomes for Louisvillians who will do this work."

The Kentucky chapter of Jobs With Justice is calling for three key elements in the soccer stadium development: a $15 wage floor, union rights, and that at least half of the hiring should be done from Louisville ZIP codes with high unemployment.

Becker said the team's proposal didn't address any of the group's key elements.

"In its letter, the ownership makes no meaningful commitment to prioritize hiring people who live in ZIP codes with the highest levels of unemployment," he wrote.

"The team’s letter makes no mention of respecting the rights of people who will work in the stadium district to join together in an organization without interference. This means it would be much more difficult to those workers to gain a seat at the table to discuss their future concerns about their jobs."

Becker said the group wants team owners to agree to offer a livable wage. 

“We felt like in the broader context of the national Fight for $15 campaign, $15 an hour is a wage that people have sort of rallied around as a decent wage,” he said.

The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. Kentucky and Indiana’s state minimum wage is also $7.25.

According to the MIT Living Wage Calculator, the living wage for a single person working full-time in Jefferson County is $10.50 per hour. The living wage jumps to $27.28 for an adult with two children.

In 2014, Metro Council approved an ordinance to raise the city’s minimum wage to $9 per hour by 2017. Kentucky’s Supreme Court denied the ruling in 2016.

The proposal from Kentucky Jobs With Justice is based on a similar one in Milwaukee, where a new stadium is currently being constructed for the city’s NBA team. Peter Rickman is president of the coalition Alliance For Good Jobs in Milwaukee. His group negotiated the agreement with the Milwaukee Bucks.

“The agreement between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Alliance For Good Jobs not only covers direct employees of the Milwaukee Bucks, but also the firms they’re going do business with — so the concessionaires in the arena preparing food service,” Rickman said.

The Milwaukee contract applies to “end-use” jobs, or the permanent positions that will be needed once the arena is built, including workers for the mixed-use space.

Rickman said there are about two dozen positions that currently qualify as end-use jobs and that the three key elements of the negotiation are being met around those positions.  

Earlier this week, Mayor Greg Fischer’s office sent Metro Council answers to questions members had about the contract. In response to a question about hiring provisions, Fischer’s office said only that the project would comply with the city’s fair labor laws, and seek to use female and minority-owned businesses when possible.

Roxanne Scott covers education for WFPL News.