One of the bigger political battles that will be discussed over the next few weeks will be the rights and abilities of unions moving forward. Unions were extremely important in advancing workers’ rights, but recently unions have taken some political/legal losses such as the situation in Wisconsin. This Labor Day, Maury Brown of Forbes SportsMoney did an amazing job outlining how professional sports unions have worked tirelessly to improve players standing in the business of sports. Now sports unions may be in a place where they not only improve the financial standing of their members, but can also be a leader in union rights throughout the country.
As there are more attacks on unions by the GOP and the members of the economy who control the means of production, unions have been put in a difficult position. As membership slows and dues dry up, it puts a financial strain on unions where they can’t compete in the expensive legal environment. Traditional unions could lose court cases because they don’t have the means to continue a fight or hire the best lawyers.
This is where sports unions come into play. They have both the high profile, as well as economic resources to fight for their members rights as workers. Sure it may not immediately translate, but any ruling in favor of unions affects any union member throughout the country.
Tom Brady’s recent fight over fair arbitration sets legal precedent throughout the country. Sure deflating footballs doesn’t matter to a steelworker, but the legal argument of impartial arbiters effects any union trying to argue whether a ruling was fair or unfair. There is a reason the AFL-CIO and Kenneth Feinberg filed amicus briefs on behalf of Tom Brady in appeal of his suspension. It wasn’t because the largest federation of unions in the country and respected arbiter was full of Patriots fans. It was because they saw far-reaching consequences for collective bargaining, arbitration and workers’ rights.
That means sports unions have the responsibility to their members, but also to other unions throughout the country. Legal cases and appeals in sports are extremely high profile. They get much more attention than a roofers strike in Massachusetts. A lot of people may say any sports case is millionaires versus billionaires. If these cases bring attention to union causes — and there is a trickle down effect of union support — the cases are helpful outside of sports.
Sports union legal battles also have financial backing that smaller unions may not have. That means they can hire the biggest and most influential lawyers to fight their battles against ownership. Whereas some smaller unions may have to give up a case or come in less prepared to due fiscal restrictions, sports unions do not. In this way they have a strong chance of helping workers’ rights.
Labor day is about the U.S. worker. Brown’s piece laid out how sports unions have helped the athletes we love to watch and cheer for, but the NFLPA, NHLPA, MLBPA, and NBPA can affect much more than their sport. They can change how all unions are treated throughout the country.