America’s Cup accused of using bad labor practices

Mike Koozmin/The S.F. ExaminerBig goals: The America’s Cup labor pact agrees to honor San Francisco’s minimum wage and ensure that 20 percent of its workforce is made up of local workers.

City agencies are looking into the hiring and payment practices of an America’s Cup event production contractor previously caught letting its roving workforce be paid less than San Francisco’s minimum wage.

The inquiries were prompted by complaints from local unions crying foul about compliance with the terms of last winter’s assiduously discussed labor agreement between City Hall and organizers of the sailing regatta.

Instead of paying prevailing wages and hiring at least 20 percent local workers as the current America’s Cup labor pact requires, union organizers say, portions of the event are being staged by a contractor they suspect is using out-of-state and potentially nonunion laborers from Texas or Virginia.

Union officials surmise that these workers are being paid less than prevailing wages for their work setting up tents, bleachers and other temporary infrastructure on the San Francisco waterfront at Crissy Field, Marina Green and Aquatic Park. The City’s prevailing wages for such work vary by task.

The complaints have prompted an upcoming hearing by the Board of Supervisors, plus a “labor standards review” by The City’s Office of Labor Standards Enforcement, according to America’s Cup assistant project director Adam Van de Water — one of the event’s city liaisons.

Jane Sullivan, a city spokeswoman for the America’s Cup project, said the labor standards office has confirmed that the workers are being paid at or above the level of San Francisco’s $10.24 hourly minimum wage. But Sullivan said investigators are still looking into whether prevailing wages are being honored. And the Office of Economic and Workforce Development is considering a separate inquiry into whether at least 20 percent of the workers are local, she said.

Van de Water confirmed that the contractor at issue is Hartmann Studios, which got itself in hot water with The City last year when labor investigators discovered that the Richmond-based firm was paying nonsupervisorial workers just $8 per hour while conducting setup for Oracle’s OpenWorld concert on Treasure Island. At the time of the concert, The City’s minimum wage was $9.92 an hour. The America’s Cup race is being put on by Oracle’s billionaire CEO Larry Ellison, the regatta’s defending champion.

Tim Jeffrey, America’s Cup public relations director, said the labor review is “straightforward” and simply involves release of paperwork by the subcontractor at issue.

Representatives of Hartmann Studios did not return requests for comment.

Scott Littlehale, a spokesman for Carpenters Local Union No. 22, said even though August’s America’s Cup events have passed and the October races are approaching next week, the alleged skirting of labor requirements should not be ignored.

“The union was prepared to work with the America’s Cup Event Authority in trying to secure contractors that were locally based to try to secure local work,” Littlehale said. “What we have seen is a very scant use of that opportunity. … We’ve seen minimal use of people who we know are residents.”

dschreiber@sfexaminer.com

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