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February 13, 2022—Super Bowl Sunday!—was officially marked as Kenny Washington Day by a motion of the LA City Council introduced by Councilmember Curren Price. Kenny Washington was the first African-American player to integrate the NFL. Two days previously, a tentative agreement was reached between concession workers and management at SoFi Stadium on their first Union contract. To celebrate both the legacy of Kenny Washington and the tentative union contract for SoFi workers, we were joined—amongst others—by civil rights legend, Reverend James Lawson. AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler, LA County Fed President Ron Herrera, LA City Councilmember Curren Price, NFL Players Association President JC Tretter, and the NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith.
Joined by prominent labor, political, and civil rights leaders to celebrate SoFi Stadium’s union recognition with focus on tourism as economic engine
Los Angeles – Union members, labor leaders, elected officials, and allies gathered in celebration of a resolution passed to “commemorate February 13, 2022, as Kenny Washington Day and recognize his trailblazing contributions in breaking the color barrier in the NFL and his service to the City”.
Washington’s vision of a more inclusive sports world lives on as concessions workers at SoFi Stadium fight for good jobs in a region that has predominantly left out black workers.
Kurt Petersen, Co-President of UNITE HERE Local 11, said, “More than 30,000 professional hospitality workers – bartenders, servers, room attendants, cooks – who have built and who sustain our region’s most important and largest industry, tourism. We believe that when hospitality workers can provide for themselves and their families, they lift up the entire city with them.”
Susan Minato, Co-President of Local 11 and Chair of Trustees of the Hospitality Training Academy, reminded everyone that it takes intention to do the work. “Local 11 has set the goal to reintegrate our hospitality industry that has systematically removed African Africans. It takes bringing jobs to communities like Inglewood. But not just any jobs – they need to be good jobs where people can support themselves and their families.”
“At SoFi stadium, UNITE HERE Local 11 has advanced the cause of racial, economic, and gender justice,” said Reverend James Lawson, architect of the Civil Rights Movement.
Chris Smith, a suite attendant at SoFi Stadium, celebrated the union victory. “This union job makes it possible for me to accomplish my dream – buying a house. My dream is in my hands now. It’s monumental to the African American community – for example dishwashers will be making $30 an hour and family health insurance by end of the contract.”
Kenny Washington’s family was presented with the resolution and stadium workers will celebrate union recognition. Ahead of Super Bowl Sunday, the event honored the important work former Rams player Kenny Washington did to integrate sports and highlight what is being done now to bring good jobs to the region.
“Kenny Washington has a special place in history, in the story of the NFL, in the story of Los Angeles, in the story of fighting for justice, equality and inclusivity EVERYWHERE,” said Councilmember Curren Price. “I’m proud to have introduced a resolution that officially marks February 13, 2022 as ‘Kenny Washington Day’ in the City of Angels.”
“We are incredibly proud as a family, after all these years, that there is interest in telling my grandfather’s story,” said Kirk Washington, grandson of former Rams player Kenny Washington.
Super Bowl LVI marks the first of many sporting events to be hosted in Southern California in the coming years and will serve as an example of what can be achieved when workers, elected leaders and the community are a part of that process.
“Today’s solidarity event was a testament to the values of diversity, inclusion and equity that our union brothers and sisters stand for, just as Kenny Washington did so courageously when he broke the modern NFL color barrier in 1946,” said DeMaurice Smith, Executive Director of the NFL Player’s Association.
“In order to win justice for workers of color and the communities they live in, we must empower them economically, which includes increasing access to good union jobs,” said Ron Herrera, the President of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.. “I am proud of the work that the Los Angeles Labor Movement has done to ensure that SoFi stadium provides good union jobs for communities of color in this region.
“Working people shouldn’t have to walk through fire to organize a union and have a good paying job because we know that unions transform people’s lives and entire communities, not just one workplace. And that’s what this SoFi agreement will do,” said Liz Shuler, President of the AFL-CIO.
The National Football League Players Association is the union for professional football players in the National Football League. Established in 1956, the NFLPA has a long history of assuring proper recognition and representation of players’ interests. The NFLPA has shown that it will do whatever is necessary to assure that the rights of players are protected—including ceasing to be a union, if necessary, as it did in 1989. In 1993, the NFLPA again was officially recognized as the union representing the players and negotiated a landmark Collective Bargaining Agreement with the NFL. The current CBA will govern the sport through the 2030 NFL season. Learn more at www.nflpa.com.