Citi Field staffed by rival Phillies vendors amid worker shortage



The Mets are having such a hard time staffing Citi Field with food and drink vendors amid a dry labor market that the service company responsible has turned to busing in labor from the home of the hated rival Philadelphia Phillies, The Post has learned.

Vendors who usually sling hot dogs and beers at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia have been shuttled on an hours-long bus ride to Queens to serve unsuspecting Mets diehards at some recent home games, according to employees and a union leader.

Food service firm Aramark, which hires vendors at both ballparks, is so desperate to fill positions amid the coronavirus crisis and its related economic downturn, it’s paying Philly-based workers to undertake the sometimes three-hour commute into enemy territory, said Ryan Nissim-Sabat, director of Union 174 in Philadelphia.

Fans stand in line at concession stands before a game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Chicago White Sox at Citizens Bank Park on August 3, 2019.The vendors have been shuttled from Philadelphia to Queens.Hunter Martin/Getty Images

“They’re busing them back and forth and paying them for the ride,” said Nissim-Sabat.

“My guess is they’re struggling to fill positions because they don’t pay a high enough wage,” he said, adding that concessions workers make roughly $15 an hour. “At the end of [the] day we’re still in a pandemic, and asking workers to be in front of 10,000 strangers at a stadium is still somewhat risky.

“They should be paying more.”

On June 11, as the Mets prepared for a home tilt against the Pittsburgh Pirates, some Citi Field workers noticed buses of food vendors from the Phillies’ stadium arriving in Flushing.

“I saw buses full of workers in the parking lot and saw they came from Philly,” said longtime Citi Field food vendor Bobby Lee.

In recent months, the food service industry in New York City has been plagued by a shortage of workers, some of whom say they’re better off collecting unemployment checks — fattened by COVID-19 relief bills — than returning to work.

But Lee said that the arrangement has been going both ways.

“It’s reciprocal,” said Lee. “They’ve been busing people there [to Philadelphia] too.”

Aramark is in charge of the hiring of concessions workers at both stadiums. Aramark is in charge of the hiring of concessions workers at both stadiums.Matt Rourke/AP

Aramark may simply want to fill vacant positions with people who already work for the company instead of hiring temps, said Nissim-Sabat — while arguing that it would be more efficient for the company to have vendors stick to home games.

“They should be hiring locally,” he said. “It’s a waste of resources to send them back and forth.”

An Aramark rep said the company has been occasionally busing workers from Philadelphia to Citi Field for decades — but workers said it’s been happening more frequently in recent weeks.

The rep didn’t respond to inquiries about whether the company is having trouble hiring locally.

Ryan Nissim-Sabat, director of Union 174, said the workers have sometimes traveled three hours for work in NY.Ryan Nissim-Sabat, director of Union 174, said the workers have sometimes traveled three hours for work in NY.Corey Perrine/Getty Images

Harold Kaufman, a spokesman for the Mets, declined to comment.

For their part, Mets fans were split on whether they wanted to be served by the road team.

“I would never work at Citizens Banks Park because it’s that grit. I’m a huge Mets fan so I would never want to work for the Phillies organization,” said Jamie Lynch, a lifelong supporter who said he’d only be OK with the outsiders if they were fellow Mets boosters — or at least agnostic.

“If [slugging first baseman Pete] Alonso hits a home run … and I’m standing there and grabbing food and they are handing it to me and they are upset, it definitely crushes my vibe at the park,” explained the 21-year-old Westchester resident wearing the jersey of Amazins ace Jacob deGrom. “I want all pro-Mets.”

Aramark said this movement of workers is not a recent change.Aramark said this movement of workers is not a recent change.Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty

Another sports buff, who declined to be identified by name, said that the important thing was the service, not who was providing it.

“If I want to buy a beer at a game, I don’t care if it’s from a Phillies worker,” the fan said. “I’d be madder if I wanted a beer and couldn’t get one.”

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