NFL labor dispute

One effect of Wisconsin governor Scott Walker’s successful effort to limit collective bargaining by the state employee’s union is that labor unions are once again in the national spotlight.  Unions consider this to be a good thing, after years of neglect, since much of the public seems to be taking their side.  And now a labor issue of even greater concern to the general public has emerged:  The National Football League is headed for a work stoppage.  After negotiations over a new contract fell apart, the players decertified their union, a tactic that allowed for court action, and the players essentially locked out the players.  Next year’s season is in jeopardy.  See  NFL talks collapse, shutdown of pro football expected – The Washington Post.

Unions for sweatshops, casualties of the industrial revolution paid subsistence wages, and other cases of the exploited proletariat are one thing.  It’s harder to be sympathetic to white collar unions and–what do we call them?–spandex collar unions, especially professional sports laborers who make untold millions and are in a dispute about how to share in additional billions.

Still, some may argue that the principles are the same?  Going from a 16-game season to an 18-game season would surely mean a greater chance for career-ending injuries.  Can’t millionaire athletes be exploited too?  Or is there a difference of kind as well as magnitude here?

And what would be the real effects of a work stoppage?  When the garbage collectors’ union goes on strike, the trash does not get picked up.  But who is hurt if professional athletes don’t go to work, other than themselves and the owners?  I have heard it said that “this only hurts the fans,” but I would contend that fans are not hurt at all, not really.  Missing a few hours of entertainment on Sunday afternoon will not hurt anyone.  Fans can always read a book, play video games, spend time with the family, or take a nap.

What do you think about all of this?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Pete

    I very much like the reference to the fact that a trash collector provides a much more tangible service than does a professional athlete. And yet we value his/her contribution to society much less highly.
    Even more problematic is the fact that you can make 6 digits for throwing a football or baseball but school teachers often have to take second jobs or have working spouses to make ends meet.
    Sorry – kinda cranky and cynical. Monday morning, I guess.

  • Pete

    I very much like the reference to the fact that a trash collector provides a much more tangible service than does a professional athlete. And yet we value his/her contribution to society much less highly.
    Even more problematic is the fact that you can make 6 digits for throwing a football or baseball but school teachers often have to take second jobs or have working spouses to make ends meet.
    Sorry – kinda cranky and cynical. Monday morning, I guess.

  • J

    I would argue that the people who are hurt are the ones who are the seasonal workers…the people in the ticket booth, concessions, etc. Not to mention the revenue that sporting events bring in for the communities they are located in. For example, hotels, restaurants, sports stores (paraphernalia). Now those are the people really being hurt…not so much the fans but the businesses and communities surrounding these revenue producing giants. I think the issue that this brings to light is the fact that greed is going to destroy our sports entertainment…if you remember the strike that MLB baseball in the 94-95 season, they lost a lot of people after that. It took time to build baseball back to the popularity it is now. The overall impact of a strike is felt throughout all avenues of the community the team is based in

  • J

    I would argue that the people who are hurt are the ones who are the seasonal workers…the people in the ticket booth, concessions, etc. Not to mention the revenue that sporting events bring in for the communities they are located in. For example, hotels, restaurants, sports stores (paraphernalia). Now those are the people really being hurt…not so much the fans but the businesses and communities surrounding these revenue producing giants. I think the issue that this brings to light is the fact that greed is going to destroy our sports entertainment…if you remember the strike that MLB baseball in the 94-95 season, they lost a lot of people after that. It took time to build baseball back to the popularity it is now. The overall impact of a strike is felt throughout all avenues of the community the team is based in

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    What I don’t understand is the reason for not doing what occurred several years ago by bringing in players to take the unionized players place. I have little use for unions anymore since a union cost my family their business.

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    What I don’t understand is the reason for not doing what occurred several years ago by bringing in players to take the unionized players place. I have little use for unions anymore since a union cost my family their business.

  • Booklover

    I agree with Pete. One of the most valuable workers in our society is the home health care worker–the one who takes loving care of the elderly parent or the disabled child–yet their value does not reflect in their pay.

    It is hard to care about an entertainment industry in the midst of all the suffering in Japan.

  • Booklover

    I agree with Pete. One of the most valuable workers in our society is the home health care worker–the one who takes loving care of the elderly parent or the disabled child–yet their value does not reflect in their pay.

    It is hard to care about an entertainment industry in the midst of all the suffering in Japan.

  • Cincinnatus

    *yawn* Another example of unions protecting the privileged.

  • Cincinnatus

    *yawn* Another example of unions protecting the privileged.

  • DonS

    I can’t work up much sympathy for either side in this dispute. They have the system they created for themselves. Let them work out the details. As Booklover says, there are much more pressing concerns in the world.

    J makes a good point above that the fallout is really on the seasonal workers that support the football industry, not on the players and owners, who can for the most part absorb the financial blows.

  • DonS

    I can’t work up much sympathy for either side in this dispute. They have the system they created for themselves. Let them work out the details. As Booklover says, there are much more pressing concerns in the world.

    J makes a good point above that the fallout is really on the seasonal workers that support the football industry, not on the players and owners, who can for the most part absorb the financial blows.

  • T

    J’s comment really caught my eye. As a small business owner and having been to several pro-football games, I see a dead season has having tremendous negative impact on the economy, which is still struggling to gain momentum. Consider the travel and leisure industry, restaurants of all kinds and sizes, sports apparel, the vendors outside the stadiums, the stadium workers themselves, and community mom and pop shops the count on venue to keep them running. The rich will be inconvenienced, but the average citizen will suffer greatly. I find it grossly irresponsible and selfish of the football community to allow a stalemate over their profits, especially when their profits are provided by the fans and supported by the workers. Not that I propose that anyone of us is “entitled”, because I surely do not. But I am for action that gives consideration for the common good. Let’s see if they are too

  • T

    J’s comment really caught my eye. As a small business owner and having been to several pro-football games, I see a dead season has having tremendous negative impact on the economy, which is still struggling to gain momentum. Consider the travel and leisure industry, restaurants of all kinds and sizes, sports apparel, the vendors outside the stadiums, the stadium workers themselves, and community mom and pop shops the count on venue to keep them running. The rich will be inconvenienced, but the average citizen will suffer greatly. I find it grossly irresponsible and selfish of the football community to allow a stalemate over their profits, especially when their profits are provided by the fans and supported by the workers. Not that I propose that anyone of us is “entitled”, because I surely do not. But I am for action that gives consideration for the common good. Let’s see if they are too

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I really don’t have a lot of sympathy for those inclined to compare the professional athletes’ salaries with the salaries of more average jobs. How many people do you know with the skills to be a trash collector? How many people do you know with the skills to be an NFL quarterback? Does that ratio look anything like the ratio between their salaries?

    And I say this as someone who is more likely to watch the trash get picked up than an NFL game, any given week.

    Anyhow, it seems rather rude of the NFL to threaten not to play after so many taxpayers pooled their money together to build them nice stadiums for them to play their games.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I really don’t have a lot of sympathy for those inclined to compare the professional athletes’ salaries with the salaries of more average jobs. How many people do you know with the skills to be a trash collector? How many people do you know with the skills to be an NFL quarterback? Does that ratio look anything like the ratio between their salaries?

    And I say this as someone who is more likely to watch the trash get picked up than an NFL game, any given week.

    Anyhow, it seems rather rude of the NFL to threaten not to play after so many taxpayers pooled their money together to build them nice stadiums for them to play their games.

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    I generally don’t care what happens between negotiating parties like players’ unions and sports team owners. Not a big sports fan.

    But, as Todd points out, taxpayers are involved in providing stadiums in many cases. They should have a spot at the bargaining table too.

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    I generally don’t care what happens between negotiating parties like players’ unions and sports team owners. Not a big sports fan.

    But, as Todd points out, taxpayers are involved in providing stadiums in many cases. They should have a spot at the bargaining table too.

  • Josh Schroeder

    Wow, Dr. Veith, I have to say you got this one very wrong. J from the second comment hits the nail on the head. If the NFL has a work stoppage, that hurts a huge number of industries around it, not just the players. You also have all the support staff of all the teams (athletic trainers, doctors, physical therapists), all the people who work concession stands and the vendors in the stands, security personnel, and as was mentioned above, bars, restaurants, merchandise, sports retail outlets. There is a lot of commerce and industry built around the NFL.

    I haven’t taken sides on the dispute yet, but from a strictly financial standpoint, an NFL work stoppage is going to hurt both the players AND the owners, but it’ll hurt a LOT of other people, too.

  • Josh Schroeder

    Wow, Dr. Veith, I have to say you got this one very wrong. J from the second comment hits the nail on the head. If the NFL has a work stoppage, that hurts a huge number of industries around it, not just the players. You also have all the support staff of all the teams (athletic trainers, doctors, physical therapists), all the people who work concession stands and the vendors in the stands, security personnel, and as was mentioned above, bars, restaurants, merchandise, sports retail outlets. There is a lot of commerce and industry built around the NFL.

    I haven’t taken sides on the dispute yet, but from a strictly financial standpoint, an NFL work stoppage is going to hurt both the players AND the owners, but it’ll hurt a LOT of other people, too.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Josh, I did not address the economic impact. I said a work stoppage wouldn’t hurt the fans. In the sense of our not NEEDING entertainment. Of course the quarrels of the wealthy will hurt the little guys who are not being considered by either side, but that was not my particular point.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Josh, I did not address the economic impact. I said a work stoppage wouldn’t hurt the fans. In the sense of our not NEEDING entertainment. Of course the quarrels of the wealthy will hurt the little guys who are not being considered by either side, but that was not my particular point.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X