MILWAUKEE — It started with a pledge from NBA MVP Giannis Antetokoumnpo to donate $100,000 to the Fiserv Forum employees affected by the cancelation of events at the arena as a result of concerns over the coronavirus. Then, Khris Middleton announced he would match Antetokounmpo’s donation. Then, Bucks officials announced the entire roster would be donating to help the impacted workers — with the Bucks matching the donations.
“For virtually all of our members, it’s a moment of terror, followed by scrambling,” said Peter Rickman, president of the Milwaukee Area Service and Hospitality Workers organization. “What am I going to do?”
Rickman said when the NBA season was suspended on March 11 the union representing Fiserv Forum employees jumped into action.
“Opened up a free unemployment consulting hotline for all of our members to represent them through the process, assist them,” said Rickman. “Then, we went to work on how income replacement can come together with everyone who works there at the Fiserv Forum.”
Alex Lasry, senior vice president of the Bucks, said the team was eager to help.
“This is not something being done for applause, or praise, or anything like that,” said Lasry. “This is us trying to make a crappy situation a little bit better, and trying to help those who, quite frankly, make this place run.”
Rickman called the collaborative effort something needed — with payout for the staff over 30 days estimated to be somewhere between $900,000 and $1 million.
“It’s an ambitious number to reach, but we have confidence that the Bucks players and management are working to just what they have said — they would create the resource pool to ensure all these workers are suffering no loss of their income,” said Rickman. “It’s a plan that in development, and nothing is set in stone.”
Rickman noted in addition to full income replacements, there needs to be a plan to address health care costs that service workers will face and paid sick time — requiring city, county, state, and federal resources.