Tuesday, June 5, 2012
This is an interesting little bit of symmetry: The NFL referees' union has been locked out by the owners, and I'm writing it up on the night that the odious Scott Walker faces a recall from Wisconsin voters.
Walker kinda handily symbolizes the declining fortunes of unions and collective bargaining across the U.S. I'm sure you've heard it all before- union membership has been on a decades long decline in this country, and the unions that are left are generally weaker. Fewer and fewer people even have the opportunity to join a union.
And that sucks; we all have the right to bargain for the best deal possible for our labor, and that often means banding together. We're stronger together than we are apart, and we should have the opportunity to use that strength. Anyone who disagrees isn't just wrong and a reactionary; they're actually anti-capitalist.
But what's really amazing is that major U.S. sports seem to have avoided this decline. Obviously, every player in the team sports belongs to a union; the biggest sport without a union appears to be golf (and it's even thought about it). Much of the support staff is unionized, too- the refs, as we said. Even the hot dog venders, for crying out loud.
Granted, these unions don't always win every fight they get into (although the MLBPA has been stunningly successful over the years, especially when Marvin Miller was in charge), but just the fact that they still command a seat at every table displays a strength most unions have lost in this country.
I'd love to know why that is. My best guess is that the major sports naturally encourage teamwork in a way that makes union appeals particularly strong, and that players are, as a whole, much harder to replace that workers- in some ways, the players are the product (i.e.- you go to a sporting event to see the players, but you buy a car just to have a car). This is all only a guess, though. If anyone has any stronger data, I'd love to take a look at it.
Whatever the reason, it's actually another thing I love about sports. Right now, the exit polls indicate that Walker is going to pull out this election, and continue to be an abysmal failure until 2014. It's nice to have a little island of organized hope.