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‘They Were Freaking Out’: Why MN United FC’s Game Day Production Crew Went on Strike

Saturday's strike was the first in the history of IATSE Local 745, the union that represents hundreds of local sports broadcast technicians.

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The scene outside of Allianz Field this past Saturday in St. Paul.

The labor movement is always looking for digestible examples to demonstrate the apparent spite with which the ruling class views workers. Ultra-rich Minnesota United FC owner Bill McGuire, who once led Minnetonka-based insurance giant UnitedHealthcare, gifted striking in-house production workers at Allianz Field field a doozy.

Twelve thousand dollars. That's the amount workers are requesting annually in shared health-care subsidies from the team, according to union rep Charles Cushing with IATSE Local 745, in addition to 4% annual raises. The response? Zero dollars in health benefits, though an offer was extended to have the requested subsidy amount docked directly from their $225 per game paychecks, Cushing reports. He says the team called the $12,000 ask "outrageous." Those optics are especially rich considering McGuire glided away from the health care industry amid financial scandal via a $285,996,009 golden parachute.

And that's just one of the reasons those freshly unionized workers—who are responsible for game day camera and sound operations—went on strike ahead of Saturday's season finale at Allianz Field, thus tanking the would-be telecast on Apple TV.

About a dozen workers who were scheduled for the match against the Los Angeles Galaxy instead picketed outside, with their 30-ish union coworkers honoring the picket line. In a statement, the team's PR staff described the labor action as, "A group of non-MNUFC employees who are responsible for key elements of broadcast production at Allianz Field have chosen not to work tonight's game."

Camera operator Josiah Wollan calls that characterization "absurd and misleading," though he says the team's solidarity-exuding supporters saw through it. The union has enjoyed robust support from Loons fans, including the dedicated Dark Clouds coalition which wrote on Saturday: "This game would have been readily available if the club had taken any of its many opportunities to negotiate in good faith with production staff. Solidarity." Pro-union signage could be spotted throughout the stands at Allianz Field.

Wollan has worked Loons games since 2016, the team's first season as part of Major League Soccer. He started taking part in union chatter a couple years ago, he says. Those conversations were catalyzed by season after season of stagnant pay and contracts so void of benefits that workers were (and, incredibly, still are) required to pay for their own stadium parking.

"They were freaking out," Wollan says of the team's reaction to Saturday's unmanned camera stations and audio boards. "It was it was big game; it was fan appreciation night."

Racket's request for comment Monday went ignored by MNUFC.

The union has met with MNUFC for bargaining sessions eight times since this past March, and Cushing says the "kind of infuriating" process has stalled out.

"They have just not shown us any interest in making a reasonable deal," he says. "And labor's biggest piece of leverages is always a strike... [IATSE Local 745] has never come anywhere close to a strike [with other units], it's never the goal."

IATSE Local 745 has inked contracts between its 200+ members and the Twins, Timberwolves, Wild, Bally Sports North, and the Big Ten Network. (If you watch Minnesota sports, Cushing says, each broadcast is likely a union product.) Until Saturday, the 14-year-old chapter had never had a unit go on strike. On Saturday morning, IATSE sent a last-minute contract proposal to MNUFC's lawyers at notorious "union avoidance" law firm Littler Mendelson, which has helped Starbucks, Trader Joe’s, and Amazon push back against its worker uprisings. Cushing says they didn't hear back, so the strike went ahead as planned.

"I don't know where we're gonna go next," Cushing says of negotiations entering the offseason. "I mean, obviously the water is kind of poison now on each side... the ball is kind of in their court now."

Wollan knows one thing for certain: He says his union isn't going to respect ongoing pleas from the team for the union to pipe down on Twitter.

"We are not promising to lay off of Twitter anymore, they don't like when we tweet," he says with a chuckle. "We're gonna be more vocal until we get this contract; we are willing to fight this through—we're coming out of this strike stronger in our resolve."

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