Arena workers feeling pinch of NBA lockout

DALLAS -- NBA owners have claimed losses totaling in the hundreds of millions. Players are set to lose their first paycheck next week and then at least one more at the end of the month -- and more if this four-month-old lockout continues.

Well, there's another group out there that's not exactly thrilled with the state of the game. Arena workers around the league are feeling the paycheck pinch, too. And they're not trying to pay off that third Bentley or seldom-used South Beach condo. The electricity bill is of greater concern.

"It's making it hard to pay the bills," said one American Airlines Center employee, an hourly worker who has worked at the arena for more than seven years and is now working far less because of the NBA lockout.

At the American Airlines Center, about 320 arena workers -- from ushers to security guards -- work Dallas Mavericks home games, Dallas Stars home games, concerts, the circus and other events throughout the year. But without the NBA in the rotation, those employees have seen their nightly assignments and weekly hours slashed. Many are logging eight fewer hours per week.

The total number of workers affected by the lockout increases significantly when including several hundred concession workers per game that are employed outside of the AAC through Levy Restaurants.

"I've gone from working four days a week to three days a week," said the AAC employee, who asked to remain anonymous. "I was working 32 hours a week. Now I'm working 24 hours. It's tough."

The lockout is the second whammy to hit many arena workers. When the economy tanked in 2008, many workers were reduced from full-time, 40-hour-a-week positions to part-time, 32-hour jobs. Now, many are down to just 24 hours. And for many like this particular arena worker, the AAC is their only source of income.

Finding additional work, this employee said, has not been easy: "There's no jobs out there."

Four Mavs home preseason games were eliminated in October and so far in November two games have been scratched. In all, The Mavs were supposed to play nine home games this month, including three just after Thanksgiving. The league has already cancelled the entire month of games. Seven home games in December, including the huge Christmas Day Finals rematch against the Miami Heat, are next on the chopping block.

NBA commissioner David Stern has given the players a Wednesday deadline to accept the deal on the table. The players association has deemed the current offer "unacceptable."

Eventually, a deal will be brokered and the games will go on. Arena workers can only hope it's sooner than later. They've seen their hours reduced. If the lockout drags on, they don't want to see their jobs disappear.