MLSE is Offside at the Air Canada Centre

by Gerard Di Trolio

A message to Tim Leiweke, president and CEO of MLSE hired in April 2013.
A message to Tim Leiweke, president and CEO of MLSE hired in April 2013. Photo: Gerard Di Trolio

Over six hundred workers at the Air Canada Centre (ACC) went on strike at 5:00 p.m. on Friday December 13.

Workers were out in full force that evening in the freezing cold picketing the ACC before a basketball game between the Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76’ers.

Teamsters Local 847 members voted 82 per cent in favour a strike by rejecting what Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) called their “final offer” after six months of negotiation. Local 847 has been in a legal strike position since Nov. 24.

The dispute revolves mainly around hours and wages.

Despite a high pressure work environment, MLSE wants its staff to accept pay freezes for one year for house cleaning staff, a one per cent wage increase for kitchen staff for 2014, and front of house staff like servers and bartenders are facing a pay cut of around $2.00 per hour.

Many workers considered full-time do not get anywhere near forty hours a week. One member of the housekeeping staff said that “four days a week is considered lucky.”

Another contentious issue is allowing servers and bartenders to keep a larger share of automatic gratuities that are placed on large parties.

Teamsters Local 847 picketing the Air Canada Centre, Friday Dec.13
Teamsters Local 847 picketing the Air Canada Centre, Friday Dec.13. Photo: Gerard Di Trolio

Solidarity on the picket line
There was no new vs. old resentment between union members. Everyone’s frustration was targeted squarely at MLSE and solidarity was evident among all employees on strike.

The only housecleaners who do get forty hours is a small group that still work at the ACC that originally came from Maple Leaf Gardens. These longtime employees were still on the picket lines and voted to strike.

A housekeeper also mentioned that MLSE was trying to stick as many of them as possible on midnight shifts with day shifts disappearing. This housekeeper also claimed that they found themselves always short staffed to do the job required of them.

Another housekeeper said how MLSE would only allow newer employees to bring one family member to the annual Christmas party. Those who had worked at the Gardens were able to bring their entire families.

A server at Real Sports Bar and Grill said that while she had voted to strike, she was really out on the picket lines in the freezing cold to support the kitchen staff who she felt was even getting a rawer deal than she was.

Kitchen staff at Real Sports often have to pump out one thousand meals in an hour when it’s busy.

Some solidarity from Maple Leafs, Raptors and Toronto FC stars would go a long way.
Some solidarity from Maple Leafs, Raptors and Toronto FC athletes would go a long way. Photo: Gerard Di Trolio

MLSE has the money
Despite MLSE being majority owned by Bell and Rogers Communications which are public companies, MLSE is a private company. This means that its financial statements are not public, but estimates show they are not poor.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are estimated by Forbes to be the most valuable team in professional hockey with a value of over $1.1 billion USD. They also estimate that they are the 31st most valuable team in all of professional sports, encompassing the NFL, NBA, MLB, F1, and major European soccer leagues.

The combined assets of all of MLSE teams and venues total $2.25 billion USD as of 2011 according to Forbes.

Though MLSE’s profits are not publicly revealed, it’s estimated that they are in the range of $100 million CAD per year.

The ACC continues to operate as normal. MLSE has brought in staff from its other venues like Ricoh Coliseum and BMO Field to work at the ACC. Replacement workers have already been hired to convert the arena from basketball to hockey and vice versa.

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16 thoughts on “MLSE is Offside at the Air Canada Centre

  1. Get back to work. You are still making better money then others and with due respect anybody who supports or works for any union is a idiot. My dad worked for 182 construction union and all they have done is a forced retirement, not pay out when injured had to fight to get that money to him, benifits either being reduced or disappearing. When he dis retire that money that he was supposed to get wasn’t the full amount and we again had to fight to get that money that they owed him. The hell with any union and people that work for them.

    1. You should take some time to read what this website is about and you’d know pretty quickly where we stand on corrupt and incompetent unions. If that’s what your dad went through with his union, that’s exactly one of the things we’re fighting against here.

      A lot of people, myself included, have been in a few unions and while they weren’t always the most effective, they were never bad like the one you’re talking about, and often did a lot of good. You’re simply wrong if you think all unions are shit and the people involved are idiots. You’re actually way out of line on this point.

      And telling people not to fight for better wages and benefits because they have it better than others never got anyone anywhere.

  2. I’m not saying to fight. 1 I’m Portuguese we are born fighters, 2 I have never backed away from a good fight what I’m saying is you better of not paying union dues, keeping it yourself and using that money to your services that you would from a union. my dad who doesn’t speak was how they took advantage of him and his rightful money. they still from what i know haven’t fired the person who my parents talked for to any translation purpose when they went to the union.. Remember we are not talking about a small union this is an construction union 182 one of the bigger ones in construction I believe.

    I add another thing one big reason I believe union are let’s say passe is that it seems that no matter what you do you can’t get fired for it, but I’m sorry if you are incapable of doing an job you should be fired and if that job like stealing money ot other important reasons you should be fired on the spot

    1. The Portuguese know how to fight that is for sure!

      There are big problems with the construction unions in Canada and the US, including all sorts of corruption, fixed elections and many other issues, including ties to the mob. I think you are talking about LIUNA. They have a long history of scandals.

      But a lot of other unions, and I would say most, are run by the members democratically. And they can be changed by the members. There is a lot of work to be done to make unions effective. People can be held to account and voted out if they screw up. But that means members have to stay on top of things. It’s a lot to ask, but that’s just the way it is.

      When it comes to firing people, of course the incompetent should be let go if they can’t get it together, especially when health and safety is involved. But the idea of bad workers being protected by unions is blown way out of proportion by politicians and bosses who have an axe to grind. We know there is always more to the story about what goes on at work. Management, foremen, bosses are always involved and they have a role in hiring, training, disciplining and firing. When it comes to people who can’t do their job, my experience is that it’s management who are bad at what they do. They never get fired for incompetence. Where I work, incompetence must be in their job description because they get promoted instead.

      The real problem for most people who aren’t in unions is that you can be fired at any time for no good reason and you can’t do anything about it unless management is stupid enough to say something they can get in trouble for. All they have to say is “it’s not working out” and you can’t do anything. This is the biggest problem when it comes to firing workers – most people have no protection at all.

  3. none of your business


    Iisten.. were not here to fight and we’re not here to talk about past times. ..WELCOME TO 2013!
    We want to work …we don’t want to work for less that we have been paid.
    How would ur dad feel cleaning the ACC for 40+ years withd a certain pay cap…. and all of a sudden it gets decreased

    How would u like to work in a kitchen sending out thousands of food by the hour….and get 5-7 $ reduced per hr

    How would u like to work at the sports bar by the acc (real sports) or fine dining (elleven) and get paid lower then minimum wage due to union dues……

    How would u like to do an event at any of the venues and think ur price is fixed n pays staff properly when staff get it on pay cheques so the company ceases part of it….

    Were not asking for more. …but we sure don’t want less!!!

    Don’t listen to anything owned by Mlse listen to this report or come down n talk to us at the picket lines.
    fyi city tv and cp24 have been there video taping us. However they are runned by Rogers and owned by MLSE….. were not greedy people….understand us!

  4. My hourly wage as a labourer when I was part of LIUNA: $29
    My hourly wage as a labourer before I was part of a union: $10

    There may be corruption, but the workers in construction make a lot more in a union than out. At very least the unions make it so that non-unionized companies have to match the pay and benefits that the unionized workers get.

  5. Most of the community think that we are being the greedy ones. Were not asked for a raise. Were asking for what is right. We make around the average that most restaurant staff do and they are wanting to lower our wages. We are unionized which means that we have to pay more a year on taxes and union dues. Union minimum wage is suppose to be $12.41 an hour. The average kitchen worker makes around $14 an hour at most major restaurants. We have a vary high volume of people coming into our restaurant, more then the average does. Most other restaurants have a yearly review and give there employees a 50 cent increase. Most of us have never seen this happen. We are just asking for what is right and not anything more then that.

  6. BOTTOM LINE: MLSE can afford to pay exactly what they already had been paying, and then some. The company is getting richer, and they want to cut wages? Give me a break. Pay your workers. Corporate greed sickens me. Makes me wonder why I even got my MBA.

  7. What a wonderful post bringing this issue to the forefront of people’s minds! How dare such a large company over look the “small” fries that are their heartbeat !!! #mlsestrike

  8. so while the unionized staff is out on the line freezing, the head negotiator is vacationing in the Dominican? that’s what the unionized staff are paying union dues for? The union has known for 6 months that a strike was looming…..great time to take a vacation; instead of fighting on behalf of the employees that make up the union and have deductions coming off every pay cheque.

  9. Pingback: Weekly Links: MLSE service workers strike, settle; Teenage boys must choose between CHL and NCAA; USA Hockey to ban fighting? | Hockey in Society

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  11. MLSE SUCKS Greedy Greedy. So What union is this. Guess i see the I (eye) as per team. MLSE are a team and TEAMED UP WITH TEAMSTERS. STAFF IS SCREWED.

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