Friday, January 11, 2013

The "right to work" and pro sports

First things first. JB (known on the streets as DH, for reasons I won't get into) came up with this idea. JB and I go back many moons. He's always been my bro, my amigo, and I'd trust him with anything -- although he's been known to wreak some havoc on what I have in the refrigerator once in a while.

He stopped by earlier, and while we were solving all the problems in the world at our latest summit meeting over a couple brewskis, JB pointed out something that had never occurred to the feeble mind of yours truly.

Recently, Michigan, where we both live, became a "right to work" state. The problem is -- it's a selective law. Some will be affected, and some won't. Cops and firefighters are exempt. It doesn't take Einstein to figure out being a cop or a firefighter will still require mandatory union participation. Yet anybody familiar with the labor history in the state of Michigan knows full well this new law was to further hammer the UAW and the "shop rats" it has represented since before WWII. The UAW was born here, and there are those that want to see it die here.

But JB made another point. What if the right to work laws applied to professional sports?

Want to play major league baseball? You have to join a union. Same with the NFL. And the NBA. And the NHL. At the exact same moment they sign a pro contract, they also join a players' association. There are no exceptions. Want to make the big bucks, perks, and enjoy all the benefits that come with being a pro? Pay your dues. Golf is different. They're all independent contractors. Every man/woman for himself. Same with tennis. Soccer? Who cares?

For an example, let's just look at the NHL. Sure, they just resolved a long labor dispute that cost a lot of people a lot of money. Owners, players, people that work at the arenas, local pubs, merchandise retailers, and a lot of other folks took a big hit.

But what would have happened if the NHL was a "right to work" league? Let's say half the players belonged to the union and the other half didn't. Would the "scabs" have been locked out by the owners too, or would they have had access to skate, practice, and enjoy all the other first-class amenities that go along with an NHL arena? Like the weight room, and coaches, and trainers, and jacuzzis? Hard to say. Would they expect the same benefits that their union teammates just suffered to get when the dust finally cleared -- while drawing their own salaries all along? Probably. They would likely say, "Hey, it's not my fault. I just wanted to play hockey. And oh, by the way, I scored 10 more goals last year than the guy with the locker next to me that just happens to belong to the union. I should at least get everything he got out of that contract".

Further, depending on one's point of view, would one root for a union player when he had the puck and boo a nonunion one -- or vice-versa? Would one need to buy a special program to sort them out? In a fast moving game like hockey, that could get confusing in a hurry.

What morons like that player never seem to realize is that without the players' union, in any of the big 4 sports, they'd probably still be selling used cars in the off season to make ends meet, let alone making millions. There would be no pensions, nor family health plans, nor a lot of other things that are taken for granted these days. Free agency never would have come to be. Once drafted by a team, their butts would be owned by that team, like slaves on a plantation once were. The owners would work them until they were no longer useful -- then throw them on a scrap heap somewhere.

It used to be that way, not just in pro sports, but just about everywhere -- until the brethren finally rose up and demanded a say-so. Do you think for one minute such things as ear and eye protection, respirators, gloves, protective clothing, and various other safety measures would have ever happened in the "shops" without unions? And how about that little thing called "seniority"? Getting older and can't move as fast as you used to? Nevermind your 30 years of faithful service with no vacation or sick days. You're gone, because this 20 year old young stud can do more work. Not even a cheap watch, let alone a pension on your way out the door. Just get.

As the working stiffs in the shops have seen their wages slashed in half, lost dental and vision coverage, along with most of the other traditional medical benefits -- most can't attend many pro sports games anymore, because they can't afford it. Those pesky little items like rent, food, and keeping the heat and lights on keep getting in the way. The "right to work" law just drove another dagger into the heart of the unions that once made it possible for them to do such things. It's much the same people doing much the same jobs, but at half the pay without any of the "bennies" they used to have. Prices keep going up and wages keep going down. Somebody's getting rich somewhere -- and it's sure as hell not the people doing the actual work.

But you know what's truly ironic, and ridiculously hypocritical? The people that stand to benefit the most from the "right to work" law in Michigan are likely the very same people that will be sitting in the "prime" seats at Joe Louis Arena for the Red Wings, Ford Field for the Lions, Comerica Park for the Tigers, and the Palace for the Pistons. They'll pay big bucks for those seats.

And all the while, they'll be cheering on workers that still belong to a union. Hello?

I'm thinking JB had it right.

But if he ever shows up at your house -- keep an eye on the fridge. I love him like the brother he is -- but that man can do some serious damage in a hurry.

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