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.