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.


Jones Threats are Failing to Stampede Cowboys

Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

New Orleans   The fallout on the NLRB charge filed by Local 100 United Labor Unions over the threats he has made to attempt to chill workplace protests, continues to attract attention nationally and, increasingly, support.

The charge forced owner Jerry Jones to meet with the players yesterday, and by all reports there was no happiness in Mudsville. Players avoided the media and for the most part would not discuss the meeting with Jones. As Dallas Fox4 reported, “Things seemed tense when they were asked about the meeting with Jones.” Stars, Dak Prescott, Dez Bryant, and Ezekiel Elliot, seem to have deliberately made themselves scare.

Dallas Cowboys player representative tried to strike a middle ground, indicating there are undoubtedly tense conversations being held to try to pull Jones off his illegal limb and back to some ground that he might be able to share with the players, most of whom are not used to being bullied for any reason, on or off the field. Quoted by Fox,

Kicker Dan Bailey is the team’s union player representative. He spoke cautiously about the issue and tried to navigate through it. “I don’t think you can ever bring a group of people together and collectively agree. I think there’s always going to be people that have different opinions, different beliefs,” he said. “I think the main focus is to just establish a baseline where you can come together and agree on something in principle. It doesn’t mean that your individual views are right or wrong. Like I said, when you come in this door, we’re working towards something as a team. I think that’s the main focus.”

More interestingly, as Fox4 called around they found solid support for Local 100’s charge from employment lawyers on the rule issue, and reportedly from other lawyers arguing the players might have constitutional grounds for a First Amendment suit as well. Here’s what the attorney offered,

Employment and labor lawyer Amy Davis, who is not involved in the complaint, says the labor union may have a case, citing the NFL’s current game manual. “What the manual says is they should stand not that a requirement,” Davis said. “And what Jerry Jones is doing is saying, ‘No, it is a requirement.’” Some legal experts also believe the NFL could face a first amendment lawsuit for punishing players who take a knee if the stadium they play in was funded with taxpayer money, which AT&T Stadium was.

Stay tuned, this is not an issue that is going away.

But, let’s be frank, that’s the high side of real news and measured response.

Turns out Facebook is also a way for haters to rage. A couple of messages came in full of Obama rage and the “n” word. Whoever says the issue of these protests is not racial is not paying attention for sure. As disturbing were the number of people who wrote that this was Jones’ team and his field and these were his players, and they had to do whatever he says. Whoa, Nellie, not in this country. Al Sharpton was quoted in a USA Today report including the charge that Jones seemed to think he was still “running the plantation.” A couple of union members, one from the IBEW, weren’t happy, because they felt the anthem trumped the more fundamental rights of the players. Brothers, there’s a law, won partially by your unions, so let’s follow it.

It wasn’t all bad. One woman asked how she could make a donation to Local 100 for standing up on this issue. That’s unique. I need to get back to her.