Incredibly American: the ARU

“It’s incredibly un-American. My DNA is offended by it.”

“It” is the National Basketball Association’s salary cap policy. The speaker is Michele Roberts, the new executive of the NBA Players’ Association (NBAPA), speaking in an interview with ESPN. Click HERE to hear the voice and read more. It’s hardly the DNA of America’s union movement.

pullman newsThe NBAPA is the spoiled great-grandchild of America’s early union movement and costly strikes like the American Railway Union’s sympathy strike in the Pullman strike in 1894.

Professional sports in America is just like America. Sort of. A little bit. Kind of.

There’s management and there’s labor. The NBA team owners (management) and the NBA players (labor) are sparring in preparation for their next big event: re-negotiation of the NBA collective bargaining agreement in 2017.

So, In that regard, the NBA is sort of like the rest of America, except for the likes of Walmart where there is no players’ union, just a company without “incredibly un-American” things like salary caps because they pay their employees peanuts.

But NBA players aren’t making peanuts. They’re making millions. A lot of millions!

It’s hard to feel sorry for a player hauling in an $80,000,000 contract, even if his name is LeBron James or Kobe Bryant. It’s also hard to feel respect for a union that represents only the elitest of the elites while other team employees are picking up the peanut shells after the games and working at Walmart.

My DNA is offended by that. It’s offended by the 1%. It’s offended by the owners. It’s offended by the players’ union. It’s offended by the greed and the self-absorption that sees the fair distribution of extravagant wealth among a small fraction of America’s 1% as a justice issue.

Justice is salary caps and earning caps at the top and an earnings floor at the bottom for the folks who pick up the peanut shells after the NBA games and have no bargaining rights at Walmart.

“It’s incredibly un-American. My DNA is offended by it.”

“There is certainly…something wrong in that form of unionism whose leaders are the lieutenants of capitalism.”—Eugene V. Debs (1855-1926) who, while serving a 10-year sentence in a federal penitentiary following the Pullman Strike, received more than a million votes as Socialist candidate for President.


Verse – “Seminary Summer Work Program”

Few had blue collar moms or dads–

they had not done factory work

or construction.  No, college lads

or gals, and we the same.  Now luck

or providence placed us in school

to learn to be good pastors.  Here

the Profs believed each was a fool

and frightened of the working poor.


The Forman was a martinet,

a dictator.  He yelled and swore

not knowing I might be his Priest

someday.  We had a seminar

each night with union leaders who

would talk of strikes and rights, and share

war stories.  Management would fly

in with charts proving they were fair…


I ripped the sheet and with a yell

one night sent bosses straight to hell.

– Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL January 7, 2013

Time for NFL Players to Walk Out

The NFL is a mess. The game’s integrity (what there is of it) could be restored in a heart beat.

All it would take to settle the lockout of the NFL refs would be for the Players Union to join them. Walk out.

One doesn’t have to love football or the NFL to see that the replacement referees have already jeopardized the integrity of the game. The Seahawks-Packer game last Monday is but the latest in a long series of incompetence by “replacement referees”.

The union movement in this country began with the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) calling on workers of the world to unite. When one trade union went on strike, other unions joined them…on strike…often at great sacrifice and with no immediate interest, because they understood that an assault on one worker or one union was an assault on all.

Monday night’s nationally televised game was refereed by replacement referees whom the union movement once would have called “scabs” – men willing to walk across a picket line to take the to take the jobs of striking or locked-out workers, collect their pay checks, and keep the production lines rolling at the factory while the bosses laughed on the way to the bank.

Unions, however, are not just about workers’ rigthts and collective bargaining. They have standards for competence and safety in their trades. They train their members. trained. Historically union members took pride in doing good work. Hiring a union plumber gave assurance to the homeowner that the plumber knew more than the do-it-yourself plumberf who flooded the second floor fixing a toilet.

If the unions serve their members, they also serve management by insuring that their employees are held to high standards of competence. The NFL referees union is no exception. They are trained. They are competent. Their replacements are not.

If the Players Union has a back bone…if the Players Union cares about the integrity of the game…if the Players Union cares about the other NFL employees who make profession football competent…the solution is simple.

Stand with the refs. Honor the best of the union movement and its history. Act not just for yourself. There’s no game without those men you love to hate on the football field: the professional, qualified refs who know what they’re doing.

Walk out!