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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Right-to-Work Equals Less Unions

 New Orleans               Rarely do we see the evidence of plain and simple attacks on unions any clearer than in the reports quoted by Steve Greenhouse in today’s New York Times.   In an article about the impending fight in Indiana where the Republican union haters and labor baiters are mounting an effort to impose so-called “right-to-work” laws allowing workers (“free riders”) covered under collective bargaining agreements to pay neither dues nor servicing fees for the legally mandated and contractually enforceable representation by the union, he cited some compellingly studies:

“Many studies have assessed the impact of right-to-work legislation, although much of the research is from years ago, when right-to-work was a hotter issue.

Henry Farber, a labor economist at Princeton, said right-to-work laws, by allowing “free riders,” shrink union treasuries. One study found that the portion of free riders in right-to-work states ranged from 9 percent in Georgia to 39 percent in South Dakota.

In another study, David T. Ellwood, the dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, and Glenn A. Fine, a former Justice Department official, found that in the five years after states enacted such legislation, the number of unionization drives dropped by 28 percent, and in the following five years by an added 12 percent. Organizing wins fell by 46 percent in the first five years and 30 percent the next five. Over all, they found, right-to-work laws, beyond other factors, caused union membership to drop 5 percent to 10 percent.”

If anyone needs help with this, essentially if you weaken the resources of unions, then there is corresponding reduction in the amount of organizing, which is part of the point of such laws, and, furthermore, when workers see that the unions have been weakened in this way, they respond significantly by not voting in favor of union representation at their jobs.  Business manages to slice the heart of labor on both of the sharp ends of this sword by reducing organizing by more than one-third and sending the message that when unions do manage to organize, they have the strong hand, thereby enticing workers to vote NO more than half of the time.

This is how class war works at the legislative level.  No question that the Republicans are committed to that course when they “occupy” a state capitol.

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