Workers at Golden State Warriors' Chase Center Left Unemployed, Uninsured

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The Chase Center in San Francisco on March 27, 2020. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

In her seven years as a suite attendant for the Golden State Warriors, Alina Martinez has tried hard to avoid living paycheck to paycheck. She paid down her debts and saved what little was left every month. Even with years of diligent work, she and her husband only have enough in reserve to scrape by for a few weeks.

They're going to need every penny right now. With the suspension of the NBA season due to the coronavirus pandemic, she and the other roughly 1,500 workers at the Warriors' Chase Center in San Francisco are out of a job for the foreseeable future.

“I’m definitely scared,” Martinez said. “There’s a lot of anxiety and stress, because without generating revenue for such an extended period of time, what does that mean for me and my family?”

“If the pandemic lasts beyond a few weeks, it’s going to turn into a dire situation,” she added. She can collect unemployment, but it's not going to be nearly enough to pay her monthly bills in San Francisco.

With the NBA season suspended, arena workers across the country like Martinez have no income. Individual players and organizations are pledging money, but in the best cases it replaces just a fraction of lost wages. The Golden State Warriors put up $1 million for all of the roughly 1,500 workers at their arena.

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Martinez said she’s grateful that the team is trying to help, even thought they’re not required by law to do so. Still, Martinez figures she needs $4,000 to $5,000 a month to pay the bills. That’s a lot more than she could possibly get from the Warrior’s fund.

“A million dollars between 1,500 workers is less than $1,000 each,” she said. “What happens when that’s gone? Because after that, we’re still here and we’re still in this situation.”

Public officials from Gov. Gavin Newsom to local city officials have confirmed Martinez’s fears that the crisis could last for months to come. The dire situation will become even more desperate if she or her husband gets sick from COVID-19, because neither of them have health insurance.

The couple hasn’t had insurance since September. That's when the Golden State Warriors moved to the new stadium. In the new arena, the employment situation changed for Martinez. Bon Appetit, which manages some 600 food service workers for the Warriors, including Martinez, isn't currently providing health insurance.

UNITE HERE Local 2, which represents food service workers at the Chase Center, is currently negotiating a contract to get them health insurance. Martinez was waiting for the contract to come through, but then the coroanvirus hit. Now the pressure to have health insurance is greater than ever. Martinez said she wishes the Warriors would make sure all the workers in the arena had it.

Even though Martinez doesn't have health insurance, she said she will go to the doctor if she thinks she may have the coronavirus. Still, appointments and treatment would mean that she and her husband would have no choice but to take on medical debt.

“I think no matter what, it’s important to get medical help regardless of the financial implications,” Martinez said. “I think it would be worse to not go and infect the people around me, especially the children.”

For many workers who don't have health care or paid time off, deciding what to do when feeling ill raises serious questions. Martinez said she's constantly asking herself whether she really needs to go to the doctor, or if she can tough it out and keep working.

“That’s definitely the questions that are in your head that you’re not going to say out loud,” she said.

Ultimately, Martinez said, it shouldn’t be up to basketball players and teams to come up with solutions for everyone who is out of work during the current public health crisis.

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Resources for Unemployed and Uninsured

KQED's guide to filing for unemployment is available here. And if you've lost a job and no longer have health insurance, Covered California has opened a special enrollment period, which means you can still get health insurance.