SEATTLE -- With Major League Baseball’s season delayed at least until mid-May by the coronavirus pandemic, the Mariners and other clubs moved on Tuesday to begin working on a program to help hourly-paid ballpark event staff who will be out of work during the shutdown.
The Mariners employ about 1,100 event staffers, though the number on-site for any game varies depending on attendance projections. Game-day workers include ticket takers, cleaning crew, security, concession workers, retail employees, seating hosts and the like.
Each MLB team has committed $1 million toward helping its seasonal employees, and Mariners president Kevin Mather said his club is putting together a grant-based employee disaster relief program to help stadium staffers that will likely exceed that amount, particularly if the shutdown extends beyond mid-May.
“These are high-anxiety times across the country right now,” Mather said. “So we got together, starting last week, and said 'let's relieve some of the anxiety.'”
Mather said the program is still being set up and that ballpark employees who would have started work on Opening Day on March 26 wouldn’t have received their first paychecks until April 15, so the club has a little time to finalize its plans.
The fund will be set up through the Mariners Care program, which is a 501(c)(3) non-profit charity that will allow others to contribute as well.
“We're hoping other employees, we’re hoping players, we're hoping season ticket holders, sponsors and a whole lot of other people take this as an opportunity to do the right thing for our community and help with some really troubling times for our valuable hourly employees,” Mather said.
Mather said because the Mariners already knew they were going to lose at least seven home games to start the season due to the situation in Seattle, the club had begun looking into the situation even before MLB announced the longer shutdown this week.
The money will be given out on a grant basis in order to not take away from potential unemployment benefits and will be based on how much each individual was expected to work or had historically worked in their positions.
“We are, quite frankly, expecting it to be more than $1 million,” Mather said. “This community and our ownership group have always been generous. It’s seed money, for lack of a better word.”
Mather said he often walks through the ballpark prior to games to talk to employees and values their contribution to the stadium experience.
“I'm often asked what makes T-Mobile Park so special,” he said. “It's not the views. It's not the roof, it’s not The ‘Pen. I always answer the same. It's the employees. It's our hourly employees.”
The Mariners issued the following statement:
While we hope to be back to playing baseball in Seattle as soon as possible, the health and safety of our community is the Mariners most important consideration.
As one part of our commitment to that community, the Mariners, along with Mariners ownership, are announcing today that we are creating a fund to support Seattle Mariners Event Staff employees who will lose pay because of the postponed games.
We are proud of our efforts to attract, train and hire workers from our diverse communities, including many that rely on their wages from our games. We understand that this is a difficult time for many seasonal staff who face the possibility of losing work hours.
With that in mind, our ownership and organization want to provide these deserving Seattle Mariners workers financial support.
We are working on details to the grant program now, and will have additional information available once the details are finalized.
Our thoughts remain with all of our fans, and neighbors, as we navigate this difficult time.