Graham Kilmer

Giannis Pledges $100,000 for Fiserv Workers

The Bucks said they would match their star forward's donation during the league suspension.

By - Mar 13th, 2020 06:03 pm
Fiserv Forum with Fear the Deer playoffs graphic. Image from the Milwaukee Bucks.

Fiserv Forum with Fear the Deer playoffs graphic. Image from the Milwaukee Bucks.

Following the temporary suspension of the 2019-2020 season by the NBA, Giannis Antetokounmpo, announced he would donate $100,000 to the staff of Fiserv Forum.

After Antetokounmpo announced his donation in a tweet, the Milwaukee Bucks announced they would match his donation, and all other player donations, to the part-time arena workers.

Antetokounmpo tweeted, “It’s bigger than basketball! And during this tough time I want to help the people that make my life, my family’s lives and my teammates lives easier. “

There are more than 1,000 employees at the Fiserv Forum who are set to make $15 an hour by mid-summer. The workers got this raise after their union, Milwaukee Area Service and Hospitality Workers Organization (MASH), fought for an expedited timeline to bring the workers to $15 an hour. A labor agreement was announced in January.

Peter Rickman, executive director of MASH, told Urban Milwaukee that his union has called on the Bucks organization and the various businesses that employ MASH workers at Fiserv Forum.

“Service industry workers will bear the brunt of this pandemic,” Rickman said. They are in an incredibly precarious situation because most lack employer provided healthcare or paid sick leave. Rickman said they will be at the “tip of the spear” of any economic crisis caused by COVID-19 pandemic.

Rickman commended Giannis and the Bucks organization for the donations announced Friday. But those announcements do not mean the organization has any detailed plans to compensate employees for wages lost to the league suspension. There is no specification what form this relief will take. Will it be wages? Will it be a charitable gift?

Rickman said the Bucks have rightly earned respect in NBA and the broader labor market for their contract with MASH. But that also means there is a moral mandate, Rickman said, that they support their most vulnerable workers at this time. Rickman said he has trust in the Bucks leadership, saying Bucks President Peter Feigin‘s is a man of integrity. Rickman said, “I bet Pete Feigin started working on this right away,” After the news broke that the league was suspended.

But, supporting Bucks service industry workers and service workers at large in the region will require the resources not just of employers, even financial mammoths like the Bucks. Rickman said city, county, state and federal governments need to get involved in relief for workers like those represented by MASH.

Rickman said a service worker relief fund should be established, to pay for such things as lost wages and healthcare costs. It is an unfortunate reality that the workers that interface the most with the public at large are also the most vulnerable to lost wages and downturns in the economy.

After the move by Antetokounmpo and the Bucks, according to Shams Charania, a NBA reporter for The Athletic, Zion Williamson, power forward, for the New Orleans Pelicans, announced he would cover the salaries of all the Smoothie King Center staff over the next 30 days.

It appears Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, was the first NBA figure to announce financial support to the staff at his arena. Forbes reported that Cuban said the Mavericks would pay their staff for the next four Mavericks games as if the games were taking place.

The league suspended all games this week after Rudy Gobert, center for the Utah Jazz, tested positive for COVID-19. This was an ironic twist of fate, as Gobert recently attempted to make light of virus earlier this week during a press conference. As Gobert got up to leave, he leaned over and pawed all the mics at the table, looking up and grinning at the press.

UPDATE: After the article was published, the Bucks guard Khris Middleton announced a $100,000 contribution, bringing the total raised to $400,000.

Gobert Video

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