September 27th, 2012

Union Refs Allowed Back by Greedy Owners

Unions don’t win many fights against bullying employers these days. Chicago teachers won but will now have 30% of their evaluation based on student test scores. Caterpillar machinists (IAM) strikers conceded everything to end their strike. 45,000 CWA & IBEW Verizon workers preserved their collective bargaining rights just last week.

The 121-member NFL Referees Association, thanks to ineptitude shown by non-union replacements, won a new 8-yr contract with the National Football League. The league locked out the refs. Technically, it was not a strike. The NFL insisted that referees give up their fixed pension plan and convert to 401K (gambling with retirement funds by investing in Wall Street, risking losses like many Americans experienced in the 2008 financial meltdown). The current refs are “grandfathered in” (though the newest professional ref is a woman) to retain their pensions. Newcomers won’t be so lucky.

The NFL is well known to be a $9 billion enterprise. Billionaire owners wanted to cut referees’ pensions to save only $3.3 million. They let their NFL product be “tarnished” over 0.00036 or .036% of revenue. It nearly ruined their precious game! How do you define greed? The “haves” are insatiable. Remarkably, without public outrage, the NFL could have held on indefinitely. Fans would not boycott games, unionized players were prevented from striking in support, and merchandise sales have not fallen off. But outrage swayed stubborn owners.

Two aspects about American outrage emerged these past few weeks. First was threshold. Mess with football, especially pro football and public outrage ensues. Second was media willingness to report and make the referee strike story go viral. Networks, commentators, bloggers and social media exploded over flubbed calls. Player and coach complaints surfaced. It was no secret. There was a national buzz.

Ironically, the big atrocities — banks gorging consumers with unconscionable usury rates, forclosing homes, denying borrowers reasonable mortgage extensions, companies hoarding cash in offshore banks while creating jobs overseas and abandoning American workers, escalating surveillance of law-abiding American citizens, and granting police authority to detain indefinitely anyone suspected of “materially supporting” “terrorists” — cause no outrage. This is partly because Americans are distracted, but primarily because these stories have not gone viral by media choice.

When media decide to give saturation coverage to any topic, it becomes inescapable. Think Kardasians. Topless princess photos. How about childhood poverty and malnutrition in the U.S.? Will it ever be worthy of saturation coverage? Think of the positive changes that could result when public outrage pressures politicians to act. We’ve become so docile, except for that brief shining Occupy moment and Wisconsin Capitol protests, no politician or corporation is frightened of the lazy American public.

Screw with football — hell yes, fix it or else! The rest — it can all wait until ???? What a crazy patchwork of misdirected social priorities.

Nevertheless, hearty congratulations to the NFL Referees. Conscientious union president Ed Hochuli has been keeping his team of professionals sharp by testing them weekly on games. For this reason alone, the refs are ready to take to the field immediately.

Hats off to Mr. Hochuli, the only regulator with bipartisan support!

Washington Post cartoonist Tom Toles 9/27/12


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This entry was posted on Thursday, September 27th, 2012 at 3:35 pm and is filed under Employers Gone Wild: Doing Bad Things, Unions. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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