Unions, basketball players and arrogance

October 20, 2011

You’ll have to excuse me, but I’m completely confused.

Can someone tell me why athletes who make on average $3.4 million dollars a year require a union?

Let’s back up.

Unions began as a way to band workers together to improve the horrific employment conditions of the 1800s. We could start with the fact that the 12-hour workday was standard. Just got worse from there.

Unions were a way to protect workers from economic and legal exploitation because, after all, when left to their own devices, corporations only do the right thing if it improves profits. So, the objective of labor unions, as I learned it, was fairness: in wages, hours and working conditions.

Sounds perfectly reasonable to me. Of course, today, we have to set aside union corruption and all that jazz. But if we do, we see that unions were intended to be a good thing. A way to prevent exploitation.

So back to basketball players, who are the athletes on my hot seat today. The athletes with what’s been called the best deal in professional sports.

The best players earn around $25 million a year. Or more. I think it was capped at around $56 million this year. Yeah. Capped.

Average players earn $10 million. What? In what industry do average performers make $10 million a year?

Rookies earn $800K to $2 million or so. Entry level. {Gosh, the entry level salary for my job way back when was $11,ooo a year. Times sure have changed.}

The median pay for hoop athletes is around $3.4 million.

So they’re on strike.

(double take) They are ON STRIKE??? For what, fair wages?


Excuse me if I don’t feel sorry for them, as I stop to buy lunch for the neat, jobless, homeless guy I’ve gotten to know a bit, the one who hangs out on Leigh Ave and is always looking for work. Or as I talk to friends who have been laid off and can’t pay their mounting bills. Or the parent with a really sick kid and insufficient health care coverage.

Excuse me if I don’t cry for them as the economy worsens and people my age see their retirement savings dwindle and disappear.

Excuse me if I don’t see the analogy when these highly paid men compare team owners to slaveholders. I guess I missed that day in class when they taught that slaves were highly compensated. Or even compensated. Maybe I was out sick.

Yes, excuse me if I don’t appreciate why spoiled rotten, arrogant brats with loads of money need a union.

Just consider me confused.

Or maybe I’m not.

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