Local 100 Puts Cowboys Owner Jones on Notice While Withdrawing NLRB Charge

New Orleans  Local 100 United Labor Unions notified NLRB Region 16 that it was withdrawing the charge filed over two weeks ago over threats made by Dallas Cowboy’s owner, Jerry Jones, to “bench” his players of they protested during the national anthem.

In a press release describing its action, Local 100 said the following about the situation:

…withdrawing its NLRB charges at this time, Local 100 did so because the National Football League after meeting with the owners and players has ruled that there will be no discipline of players for utilizing their “platform” and protesting the societal situation of racial injustice and police brutality that is impacting their working conditions and lives. Furthermore, the NFL committed to continued dialogue about these situations and taking positive, though unnamed steps, to address them in the larger community. NLRB rules allow the union to refile these charges at any time.

Since the filing of Local 100’s charges, Jones has not repeated the threats against the players that were the subject of the charges. United Labor Unions’ Chief Organizer, Wade Rathke said, “If Jerry Jones threatens or disciplines any players of the Dallas Cowboys despite the clear position of the NFL and others, we will immediately refile these charges with the NLRB and pursue them to their conclusion. We are hopeful that Jones has learned that there are legal limits that guide his treatment of his workforce and rights that cannot be abridged, regardless of his own personal opinion. We will continue to monitor this closely. We hope a lesson was learned, and that we had some small impact on this debate, and the actions of the NFL doing the right thing.”

Has Jones really learned his lesson? We hope so, but we doubt it. We believe in fact that it is more likely that a combination of our action emboldening his own lawyers to tell him he was across the line and to shut up, the NFL overlords telling him his position was untenable and he needed to back up, and the anger of his own players at his bullying all forced him in retreat. As cbssports.com reported among many others, “Cowboys players were reportedly angered by Jones’ public hard-line stance, and the team had a meeting with Jones about it during the bye week.” There were no public comments, but privately it was well-known that players told Jones he was out of line.

The final straw convincing the union that it was best to withdraw for now and leave the matter hanging became clear after Jones’ vacillating in reaction to defensive tackle David Irving raising his fist after anthem in the last game. Jones tried to walk the line saying as long as it was not during the anthem, no problem. Jones again was exposed as “all talk, no cattle.” Or, as The Nation’s David Zirin has written, “… the fact Jerry Jones now has to smile his way through it is just another sign of how much ground the owners lost and how much of their own humanity the players have reclaimed.”

And, besides reclaiming their “humanity,” the players have also learned the power of their labor rights both under the NLRA and their own contract, which the NFLPA shrewdly enforced in the meeting with the owners. As Local 100’s statement said as well, we were

…also glad that … [our] action in stepping in to file charges against Jones and Cowboys for their treatment of their players ignited a national debate about the rights and entitlements the players had as workers under the National Labor Relations Act. Lawyers, professors, and others have joined the debate in newspapers, blogs, and websites on the question with the preponderance of them supporting Local 100’s standing to file and the fact that the union drew attention to the role of the NLRA in protecting workers’ rights in these situations. The union is hoping that its action will prompt other workers caught in difficult situations in their jobs, too often unrepresented, to understand the law and take advantage of its provisions to protection themselves and exercise their rights.

This clearly isn’t over. The protests, though diminished, continue. And so does the debate, and that’s a good thing for the players, the cause, and workers and their communities everywhere.

Professor Tim Wu, free speech, computer expert, and occasionally columnist for the New York Times threw another brick at the window, this time at the White House, which was pulling the strings on the Cowboys’ Jones, saying...

…the White House needs to be held accountable when it tries to use private parties to circumvent First Amendment protections. When it encourages others to punish its critics — as when it demanded that the N.F.L., on pain of tax penalties, censor players — it is wielding state power to punish disfavored speech. There is precedent for such abuses to be challenged in court.

The fat lady won’t sing on this one until victory is complete. There will be many test questions in the future for Jerry Jones and his ilk on the lessons they are being forced to learn now.

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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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