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Union Vote on Pact With Sports Arena Ends Age Dispute

TIMES STAFF WRITER

San Diego Sports Arena employees voted Monday on a contract agreement reached by union negotiators and management at the San Diego Sports Arena, ending a lengthy and acrimonious dispute.

Final results of the voting were not available late Monday, but Ken Fujimoto, spokesman for the Service Employees International Union, Local 102, said the leadership had recommended approval of the contract.

Speaking privately, officials for both sides said they expected the proposal to be approved.

Local 102 and San Diego Entertainment Inc., current leaseholder for the city-owned arena, hammered out an agreement Friday, after five months of negotiations.

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The talks were marred by allegations by union officials that San Diego Entertainment was selling the lease to a company that wanted to fire older union employees and reduce the wages of others.

On Monday, Richard Esquinas, managing partner of San Diego Entertainment, said neither his company nor Arena Group 2000--the company negotiating to buy the lease and headed by Ron Hahn--ever intended to discriminate because of age or reduce employee wages.

San Diego Entertainment and Local 102 officials issued a joint statement in which Local 102 president Eliseo Medina withdrew his earlier allegations that Hahn intended to fire older workers and reduce the wages of others.

“I’m convinced that there was never any intent to discriminate based on age or to cut wages,” Medina said in the statement. Medina was out of town and unavailable for comment.

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Fujimoto said the agreement called for a 21-month contract that expires in March, 1993. In addition, employees will receive a 4% raise retroactive to last Friday and another 4% increase on June 1, 1992. Despite the comment attributed to Medina in the joint statement, Fujimoto insisted that “they wanted to fire and get rid of some of our older members.”

“We got a concession that this wouldn’t happen,” Fujimoto said. " . . . Over half of the people we represent are over 50 years old. Most of the older workers are on fixed incomes, and this is how they supplement their income. All they’re doing is working. There was never a question about their work ethic or complaints about their work.”

Depending on the size of the event, Local 102 represents between 52 and 120 part-time ushers, ticket sellers, ticket takers and novelty sales people, Fujimoto said.

Union officials credited Mayor Maureen O’Connor and Councilman Ron Roberts with bringing both sides together in the talks.

“I’m delighted that both sides have come to an agreement,” Roberts said. " . . . My concern was that people working there were treated fairly.”

Roberts said the city collected $200,000 a year rent from the Sports Arena. He said the land alone is worth about $40 million.

Recently, the city has attempted to attract a private developer to build a new facility at another location.

San Diego Entertainment officials had proposed building a new facility in Sorrento Hills, near the intersection of Interstates 5 and 805. However, that plan was never popular with Roberts and other council members.

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In December, the City Council is expected to approve the sale of the Sports Arena lease to Hahn and Arena Group 2000.

Esquinas, who is an official with San Diego Entertainment, will be an owner of Arena Group 2000. Hahn and Esquinas have expressed interest in building a new arena downtown, Roberts said.


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