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?