Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The NFL's spring of discontent

While I do some legal work for a local teacher organization, I would never pretend to be a labor lawyer. I have a basic understanding of the process by which the local school district goes about screwing its employees dismissing teachers, but that's about as far as my knowledge extends in that field.

Having made that disclaimer I am quite intrigued by the machinations of the NFL owners and the players in their ongoing negotiations - or whatever you choose to call it at this time. The owners, most of whom have never seen a local government they wouldn't attempt to fleece, claim the players were negotiating in bad faith and that they intended to decertify the players' union all along. The players, many of whom seem to have forgotten how us reg'lar folk live, point to the television contract in which the owners agreed to less overall money in exchange for a guaranteed payment in 2011 whether or not there was any football.

With the NFLPA decertifying itself and the players filing suit in federal court arguing that the NFL is violating anti-trust laws, how on earth can the parties come to a new agreement?

If the players' union isn't a union anymore then how can their be a new collective bargaining agreement? If the NFLPA is now a trade association, how does that give it the right to bargain on behalf of the players? Wouldn't that mean the NFLPA is a union? And, if it's a union, the lawsuit filed by the players is a nullity.

And what kind of a union signs off on agreements that benefit the few at the expense of the many? I don't know of too many "union shops" in which each employee negotiates his or her own deal with the employer. I don't know of too many "union shops" in which the union agrees to a wage scale that pays new workers an obscene amount of money before they've ever worked but doesn't protect older workers from being laid off for no other reason than they're older.

On the other hand, the owners were beyond stupid not doing themselves any good by giving money back to the networks and DirecTV in exchange for guaranteed income in 2011. How could anyone think that was anything more than a blatant showing of bad faith on the part of the league?

As to the division of the booty, the league and the owners are telling us constantly that building new stadiums benefits local economies by creating new jobs and the like. Once again I must ask, if that's true, why can't the owners find private investors who are willing to plop down the bucks for the owners' new playpens? Why are these owners, who profess an undying love of capitalism, so insistent that state and local governments fund their stadiums?

Take a look at the area surrounding Reliant Stadium in Houston. Anyone who's been here for the past 20-30 years will tell you that South Main looks as rundown and seedy now as it did back in the 1980's. The new stadium did nothing for the economy. There were no benefits. It just means that we financed a fancy new (antiseptic) building so that a (very) rich man could stuff his pockets with more cash.

Now I'm not going with the "a pox on both your houses" attitude in this matter. My sympathies are more with the players - they're the ones everyone's paying to see and they're the ones risking permanent injury and disability every time they step out onto that field.

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