The new Seahawks stadium, Paul Allen's personal and publicly funded project, has run into one of its first major obstacles--the unions. Allen and Aramark, the stadium's private food concession company, are resisting efforts by the Hotel Employee and Restaurant Employee (HERE) Local 8 to unionize concession workers. If the matter isn't resolved soon, it could turn into a PR disaster for Allen and the stadium, which is just five months from completion.

The battle between First & Goal (Allen's stadium company), Aramark, and Local 8 centers on something called a "card check neutrality" agreement. (Card check agreements are a common union tactic used to circumvent a formal National Labor Relations Board union election; the NLRB election process often gives management the upper hand.) Basically, the union wants written assurance that Aramark will stay "neutral" and not influence the stadium's food and concession workers against unionizing. "We just want livable wages and some assurance workers won't be fired or intimidated," says Local 8 spokesperson Casey Rukeyser. Locally, the agreement is fairly common. Volume Services of America, the concession company that works in Safeco Field, signed a similar agreement a few years ago. So have companies serving the Convention Center and many of the hotels in town. So far, Aramark has refused to sign. (Aramack did not return our call.) Allen's First & Goal is just trying to stay out of it. "We're not in a position to do anything," says First & Goal's Michael Nank. This could be a bad strategy.

For one, Local 8 has rounded up political support. On February 25, Mayor Nickels wrote a letter to Allen's First & Goal backing Local 8's position. Second, the public, already bitter over having to fund two stadiums, has a short fuse. (Allen's stadium cost the public $300 million. And remember, just last year the Mariners tried to get more taxpayer money for the $526 million Safeco.) Things will only get worse if Allen continues to sidestep the issue. Local 8, a feisty union, will begin demonstrating in front of Allen businesses like Vulcan Inc. in Redmond this Friday.