Football On The Brink

jonathan-tasiniI’ve been following this from a far–not because I like the sport (I don’t)–but it is a fight that is a tough one for the workers.

At the brink of an all-out labor war Thursday, the NFL players union weighed an 11th hour-proposal by National Football League owners designed to keep the two sides at the bargaining table. The sides were considering extending a midnight deadline for the expiration of the current collective-bargaining agreement.

At stake was the future of the world’s most successful professional-sports league, a $9 billion annual juggernaut now threatened by the sort of deep-seeded labor strife that has caused months-long work stoppages and billions of dollars in losses for professional baseball, hockey and basketball in the U.S.

During a 10th day of talks mediated by George Cohen, director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services, the two sides discussed extending the current CBA, a move that would prevent what could become a lengthy and ugly litigation. If the talks break down, the National Football League Players Association is expected to to decertify their union, a move that opens up the door for the players to file an antitrust suit against the owners if a lockout ensues.

It has always been even harder for sports figures compared to other workers (harder than it is for public workers too!) to generate a lot of sympathy among the public for a strike–but the truth is this a battle between big corporations and their workers. But, football players are slightly different:

The public tends to be sympathetic to the players. Most fans are well aware that football players — unlike many other well-paid athletes — put their health and safety at risk every time they step on the field. They know that NFL careers are short. That the contracts are, for the most part, not guaranteed. If the public chooses sides, it will likely be with the players.

I sure hope so. And the players will need everyone out there on the streets if the lock-out does take place.
This blog originally appeared on Working Life on March 3, 2011. Reprinted with Permission.
About the Author: Jonathan Tasini is the executive director of Labor Research Association. Tasini ran for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate in New York. For the past 25 years, Jonathan has been a union leader and organizer, a social activist, and a commentator and writer on work, labor and the economy. From 1990 to April 2003, he served as president of the National Writers Union (United Auto Workers Local 1981).He was the lead plaintiff in Tasini vs. The New York Times, the landmark electronic rights case that took on the corporate media’s assault on the rights of thousands of freelance authors.
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Madeline Messa

Madeline Messa is a 3L at Syracuse University College of Law. She graduated from Penn State with a degree in journalism. With her legal research and writing for Workplace Fairness, she strives to equip people with the information they need to be their own best advocate.