Super Bowl work day means $12.25 an hour while selling $13 beers

Hopefully, most of these fans at Levi's Stadium bought their high-priced hot dogs before they ran out.

Richard Mackson/Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The Super Bowl wasn’t all glitz and flyovers and Lady Gaga and Beyonce and Peyton Manning and Von Miller and Cam Newton and high rollers in much-coveted seats.

It was also temporary workers making $12.25 an hour starting and ending their day waiting in long lines for shuttles to and from Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., standing on their feet for 16 hours and watching as their concession stand ran out of some food before kickoff.

Writing for Slate.com, freelance journalist Gabriel Thompson described his experience working at a food-court-type concession area on Sunday.

Thompson said he was instructed to arrive at the shuttle parking area by 7 a.m., two hours before his shift was to start, in order to leave enough time for travel and getting through security. Thompson and his co-workers weren’t paid for this time, though he said that may have been illegal under California law.

Upon arriving at the food stand, where he had worked for some 49ers regular-season games, he found prices jacked up for the big game — $3 more for a beer, up to $13. Jumbo hot dogs were $11.

Despite the price, the hot dogs sold out an hour before the game. Does that seem hard to believe? For one customer, it certainly did — a woman wouldn’t leave the stand until Thompson lifted the lid to show her an empty hot dog bin.

Later, the stand ran out of the $18 chicken sandwiches and other items. He described the second half as going by "in a blur." But not so when it was time to leave.

After everyone clocked out — for Thompson it was 8:39 p.m., meaning he had put it an official 12-hour day — they headed for the buses to take them back to where they parked Sunday morning. It wasn’t a smooth transition.

Thousands of workers are shuffling slowly along a path that follows alongside a tennis court, passes over a small bridge and finally spills out onto a road, where two buses idle. It takes me seven minutes to make my way to the end of the line; by that time it has stopped completely. We all wait for another 20 minutes, without moving. More workers join, and the line becomes tighter and hotter. Many people have been on their feet since 4 a.m., and we are packed so closely that sitting down is impossible. One woman starts sobbing. Another hour passes. We’ve moved about 200 feet. “There’s gonna be a riot here!” someone yells. It certainly feels possible.

Between the morning and evening trips, Thompson said, he spent five hours waiting for and riding shuttles. Unpaid.

When they finally ride a bus leaving Levi’s Stadium, another worker told Thompson: "I guess I’ll just consider this volunteer time."