Groundskeepers at Wrigley Field went on strike today, and laborers installing sky boxes at the Chicago Cubs ballpark honored the picket lines, threatening preparations for the April 4 season opener.
But the team issued a statement saying operations at the ballpark would not be disrupted.
The groundskeepers began picketing outside the field at midnight, said Richard Malkowsky, secretary treasurer of Local 25 of the Service Employees International Union. He said that the union’s contract with the Cubs expired last Dec. 31 and that talks with team officials broke down Monday.
The groundskeepers walked out over a management effort to cut nearly in half their $14-an-hour wage and win other concessions, said Sam Bongiorno, a 23-year veteran of the grounds crew. The 24 groundskeepers’ average pay is $21,000 a year, Malkowsky said.
The Cubs’ statement expressed surprise at the strike, saying that discussions with groundskeepers were “proceeding in an orderly fashion” and that grounds crew employees had continued a normal work schedule.
Malkowsky said the ballplayers’ union will be asked to join the picket lines when players return from spring training in Mesa, Ariz., but, he said, “I’m hoping we can resolve it before the season starts.”