Sports labor disputes & doing what’s right

There’s a ton of talk of how bad the NFL’s scab refs have been, especially after last night’s complete debacle between Seattle and Green Bay. It’s received less attention, but the NHL owners have locked out the players as well and as of now, there is no hockey this year. Sarah Jaffe has a great piece on both NFL and NHL lockouts, in which she gives a good rundown of why we should care about these two efforts by management to squeeze more revenue out of their workers (big or small).

I’m not sure what the way out for the NFL is. Right now the league is trying to take away the refs’ pensions. The amount of difference between the league’s position and the refs’ position amounts to a measly $62,000 per team per year – probably as much a team sells in pretzel concessions in a given home game. The NFL is purely in this for greed and an exertion of power of owners over some of their workers – there is no legitimate financial justification for a difference of $62,000 in a multi-billion industry. But as long as fans keep watching NFL games – something that is certainly going to happen – there’s little financial incentive for the NFL to end their lockout of the regular refs.

Daniel Hanson, an economist from the conservative think tank AEI, has called on the NFL Players Association to walk off the job given the dangerous playing conditions the NFL has created with the scab refs:

The ref situation constitutes what the U.S. government calls “an undue hazard to the health and safety of [an employee].” Accordingly, under the regulations of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, the situation must be remedied to the satisfaction of a representative “selected by a trade union representing the worker.” The NFLPA has the right to review the ref situation and refuse to work until it is fixed.

Indeed, the law protects unionized employees from reprisal in the event that a risk hinders their ability to work safely. The National Labor Relations Act, to which the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement is subject, contains a provision regarding “abnormally dangerous conditions” and makes it clear that workers are under no obligation to work if their employers aren’t competent enough to fix these dangers.

And again, this is coming from a guy who works at a conservative think tank.

The NFL has to end the lockout of the real refs by Thursday night’s game. The scab refs have now cost a team a victory by making the absolutely wrong call on the final play of the game. There have been multiple injuries that went unpenalized. Barring a full on bench clearing brawl, I don’t know how much worse the scab refs impact on the game can be before the NFL has to cave. I mean, what else does Roger Gododell need to see to recognize that the integrity of this sport is worth more than $62,000?

One thought on “Sports labor disputes & doing what’s right

  1. This is about power pure and simple. We have seen this disease throughtout our society time and again where the rich and powerful, the bosses, the “job creators”, do things not because they need to, not because there is a material benefit to them, but because it is essential that they win every single time, that they crush any opposition and that they show any organized opposition or resistance exactly who is in charge. Any sense of mutual benefit, of overriding social values or of a common interest is completely absent. At least in feudal society there was a reciprocity of obligation, albeit unequal. This is the capitalist jungle.


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