On Saturday, Rudy Gobert donated $500K in the wake of his COVID-19 diagnosis, including $200K to part-time arena employees impacted by the postponement or cancellation of Jazz games and other Vivint Arena events.
But this week, part-time arena employees received an email that their upcoming paychecks would include their hourly wages for only “actual hours worked” during the March period, according to an email sent to all part-time employees acquired by The Salt Lake Tribune. A company spokesman confirmed the message.
Larry H. Miller Sports and Entertainment has two scheduled paydays in the rest of March, depending on the type of employee. For arena and team store part-time employees, their payday will be Friday, during which they’ll receive payment for the events that actually occurred between March 1-15. For Jazz, Bees, and Jazz broadcasting part-timers, they’ll receive payment on March 31 for actual hours worked between March 7-21.
But due to the coronavirus outbreak, most events scheduled in the month of March were postponed. While Disney on Ice shows took place at the arena from March 5-8, and the Jazz hosted the Toronto Raptors on March 9, everything through the end of April has been postponed. That includes scheduled Jazz games on March 13, 14, 16, 20, 24, 28, and 30th, along with concerts on March 21, 26, and 27.
LHMSE indicates that there are over 800 part-time employees who work at Vivint Arena, including food service, security, guest services, custodial, and other parts of event-day operations. But at this point, the company has not released plans to pay employees or support them during those games, nor have they announced how they’ll use Gobert’s $200K donation — which wasn’t mentioned in the email to employees.
Players, like Gobert, have made high-profile donations to cover the shortfall. New Orleans Pelicans No. 1 pick Zion Williamson, on a rookie contract, announced plans to cover effected workers salaries for 30 days. League MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo donated $100K to the cause, which the Milwaukee Bucks matched.
LHMSE says it remains in assessment mode, but appears to be focused on job placement for their part-time employees, rather than subsidies.
“We are closely monitoring the impact the coronavirus is having in our community and on our businesses. We are having deliberate discussions on the best way to support our part-time employees across Larry H. Miller Sports & Entertainment who are being negatively impacted,” Utah Jazz and LHMSE president Jim Olson said in a statement given to The Salt Lake Tribune on Wednesday.
“We are in regular contact with the NBA and our concert and family show partners," he added. “Our hope is that the Jazz season will resume at some point, and we are already working with the artists to reschedule concert dates,” the statement continued.
“In the meantime, Rudy Gobert’s donation is a wonderful gesture of assistance to these employees from which they will benefit until events return to Vivint Smart Home Arena. We are also assembling a list of current part-time employment opportunities in our community to help our employees in the interim."
The initial LHMSE email to arena workers frustrated a number of part-time employees who spoke to The Tribune on the condition of anonymity.
Some pointed to the number of arena staff, especially the elderly, whose work at the arena is their only source of income, as people who would be most affected by the deficit compared to what was expected a week ago.
One part-time worker said he was “surprised and disappointed” at the lack of communication from LHMSE until receiving the email — and wasn’t happy after reading the email either. Several mentioned that they’ve had to rely on communication between employees to try to figure out what was going on, with a significant topic of conversation being the ultimate fate of Gobert’s donation.
Some have contrasted Gobert’s efforts to those announced by LHMSE so far. Besides the $200K donation, arena security and customer service staff remembered that Gobert gave that sector of arena workers each a Christmas card in December — all with a $100 bill slipped inside.
The plight of part-time arena employees has become a national cause since the suspension of the NBA season. According to the New York Times, as of Friday last week, “roughly half of NBA teams had announced plans to reimburse workers for lost wages.” More have announced similar plans in the days since. A list compiled by The Action Network’s Matt Moore includes 29 of 30 NBA teams who pledged support for their workers — a list which also includes the Jazz, after a spokesman told The Tribune that they were committed to an employee assistance effort last week.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told the Times that there were payroll tax considerations, but he wouldn’t mind paying his employees twice — once now, once if and when the postponed games are actually played — if necessary.
"There’s issues of payroll taxes. Do you pay the payroll taxes if they don’t work?” Cuban said. “There’s issues of, ‘What happens if the games are actually played in the future? Do we pay them twice?’ I personally don’t care. That’s fine.”
LHMSE told employees that their “People and Culture Department” is working to create a list of current part-time employment opportunities that may be helpful while games are postponed. They also wrote that food items left in Vivint Arena for sale at concession stands had been donated to Catholic Community Services, and that the arena had been thoroughly cleaned and sanitized.