More Experts Weight in On NFL Players’ Labor Law Protection and Players Pushback

New Orleans   In the matter of just days since Local 100 United Labor Unions filed charges with the NLRB in Fort Worth asking Jerry Jones to stop violating labor law in threatening players for the Dallas Cowboys, we have gone from being a lonely voice in the wilderness to another speaker in a crowded chorus. Win or lose with the NLRB, in the court of public comment, experts increasingly believe that Local 100 has a strong case and the NFL owners are sinking in quicksand.

The NLRB has contacted the union and has started the process of investigating the charges. Even before our case has been presented, there is recognition that publicly recorded comments from Jones to the media on October 8th and 10th are problematic under the law. One of the questions asked in the preliminary inquiry was whether we had any contact with the NFL Players’ Association. At the time I indicated that we had not involved the union, recognizing that they were busy enough trying to hold the owners to the terms of their collective bargaining agreement. Shortly afterwords though we got some encouraging feedback indirectly for our efforts. Kenneth Stretcher, Dallas office director for Local 100 had received some calls from other area union representatives who had heard directly from Dallas player’s association representatives. He wrote:

The press release also prompted the Player’s association to call the head of the [union] and ask for a meeting. He called me to ask a few questions. He was positive about everything. He implied that having an individual union take that kind of action was good and agreed that it was good to remind the public that workers still have rights in the age of Trump.

We had hoped that was the case, so we were pleased to hear they were finding it useful in navigating this storm. One report on the news services indicated that NFL Commissioner Goodell had clarified the issues for the owners’ meetings schedule for the coming week, saying that he has not proposing a rule change but the item is up for discussion, indicating maybe he’s getting the message as well.

The New York Times finally weighed in late in the game in an article headlined, “NFL Players May Have an Ally in Their Protests: Labor Law” by Norm Scheiber. The piece says,

“As it happens, the law is much more expansive, protecting any “concerted activities” that employees engage in to support one another in the workplace, whether or not a union is involved. The National Labor Relations Board and the courts have defined such activity to include everything from airing complaints about one’s boss through social media to publicly supporting political causes that have some bearing on one’s work life.”

Well, not really, “as it happens,” more like as Local 100 has filed in our NLRB charge in Region 16. In the article, a Harvard professor also weighs in, indirectly supporting Local 100’s initiative, saying,

“Workers without a traditional organization that is meant to protect them at work are kind of scrambling around for new ways of protecting themselves,” said Benjamin Sachs, a labor law professor at Harvard University. “It does feel like these are nascent forms of something new.”

This fight is a long way from over.   A poll cited in the Times in a disturbing way indicates the power of Trump’s attack. In three weeks, support for the NFL that was matched evenly between former Clinton voters and former Trump voters at about 60%, in the wake of his tweets to his base has led to an erosion of half of the NFL’s support among Trumpsters, while the former Clintonistas have maintained their support.

Are Jerry Jones and the billionaire owners winning? Not if we can help it. A clearer sign that the bullying may be backfiring is found in a letter from Russell Okung, a Los Angeles Chargers lineman.

In an unusual and public call to arms, a Los Angeles Chargers lineman posted a letter on The Players’ Tribune … urging the league’s 1,700 players to take a unified stand against pressure from N.F.L. team owners to curb demonstrations during the national anthem before games. “We can either wait until we receive our respective marching orders, speak up individually, or find a way to collaborate, and exercise our agency as the lifeblood of the league.”

No fat lady is going to sing, until the players act collectively and push back on this effort to curtail their rights as workers and Americans.

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Jerry Jones is Breaching the NFL Players’ Contract and Violating Labor Law

Members of the Indianapolis Colts take a knee during the nation anthem before an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns in Indianapolis, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

New Orleans   I guess no one should be surprised if the owner of the Dallas Cowboys football team occasionally acts like a fool cowboy, but I quickly want to say I mean no offense to cowboys themselves.

In the wake of many players pushing back on the President in order to raise attention to the issues of discrimination against African-Americans and repeated incidents of police brutality, Jerry Jones, first tried to organize the players on his team by taking a knee with them before the anthem and then all standing for the anthem. Now, failing to have his players respond as chattel, he is threatening to unilaterally fire any player on the team who protests during the anthem. An ESPN sportscaster suggested in a tweet twice that advertisers for the Cowboys team should boycott them until Jones steps back and realizes that his players are grown men with the right of free speech. She’s been suspended, but she was on the right track.

Meanwhile, the tweeter-in-chief puts the hook on his vice-president, watching his home team play a game in Indianapolis, and pulls him away from the game because players for the San Francisco 49ers were protesting and taking the knee. Many argue that this is just a Trump distraction from his failing presidency, but it all has real life consequences. Colin Kapernick, the former 49er quarterback who started these protests last season, is clearly being blacklisted – and Jones is going out of his way to prove the case with his threats – is so desperate to be hired that reportedly he said he would stand for the anthem if that’s what it took to get a job.

But, here’s my question? Where is the union in all of this? The NFL Players Association should be right in the middle of this mess.

Jones is claiming that he has the right to threaten his players and dismiss them because of some stray language he and his people found in the NFL Code of Conduct. So what? There’s no way that some forgotten and unenforced language in the code that even the league was not requiring would supersede the collective bargaining agreement between the players and the owners. There is no way that such a firing would constitute “just cause” under the contract, and the union needs to speak up and say so.

Furthermore, contract or no contract, to threaten players for taking concerted action on the job is an unfair labor practice under the National Labor Relations Act. Why isn’t the union filing charges now in Dallas to protect the workers? It is against the law to threaten, coerce and intimidate workers for concerted activity, so the union needs to file the charges at the labor board.

It is also against the law to fire or blackball a worker for concerted activity, so why hasn’t the union filed charges for Kapernick? There’s wide consensus and extensive commentary that indicates, particularly at this point in the season, that with quarterback injuries, objective criteria would have a number of teams picking him up to fill a gap, whether as starter or reserve.

The NFL can’t seem to teach us how to play safely, but the least the players can teach everyone in America is that the league – and the country – need to play fair. There’s a law. Make them follow it!

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