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O.C. BUSINESS PLUS | HEARD ON THE BEAT / TOURISM

Convention Workers Seeking Status Change

March 28, 2000|E. Scott Reckard | E. Scott Reckard covers tourism for The Times. He can be reached at (714) 966-7407 and at scott.reckard@latimes.com

The service workers union wants to increase the number of full-time Anaheim Convention Center employees--those who work enough hours to qualify for retirement and medical fringe benefits.

Most of the 487 people in the local bargaining unit work 15 to 20 hours a week at about $8.50 an hour. Only about 20% put in the 30 hours needed to qualify for a state pension or to have the city pay 80% of medical benefits, union organizer Mark Langevin said.

In decades past, the typical Convention Center worker was moonlighting from another job, but that's no longer the case, Langevin said. Moving more employees to full-time status will be an issue in contract negotiations with the Convention Center this summer, he said.

Indeed, more employees will be needed. The Convention Center, expanded four times since its 1967 opening, is spending $169 million on a fifth modernization. When it reopens late this year, it will once again be the largest convention facility on the West Coast.

"As the labor market has evolved in north Orange County, you have a lot of people working more than one job, with not much in the way of benefits," Langevin said. "With the expansion of the Convention Center there's no reason they can't expand the number of people who qualify for these benefits."

Convention officials declined to comment in detail on an item that will be a major negotiating point.

However, general manager Greg Smith noted that the business is inherently one of "peaks and valleys." He said that counting other bargaining units, the center has 800 to 900 part-timers for a reason: "You staff as needed because the events come and go."

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