Friday, December 7, 2012

NFL Players Union Opposes Michigan’s ‘Right-To-Work’ Push: ‘We Don’t Think Workers Deserve This’

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s (R) attempt to push a union-busting “right-to-work” law through the state legislature this week was met with considerable opposition from labor groups, who have protested en masse both outside and inside the state capitol in Lansing since Snyder announced his support for the law on Thursday.

Today, the legislation has a new foe: the National Football League Players Association, which represents players on Michigan’s NFL franchise, the Detroit Lions, and has come out against “right-to-work” before.

“We stood up against this in the past, and we stand against it in its current form in Michigan,” George Atallah, the association’s assistant executive director for external affairs, told ThinkProgress in a phone interview. “Our leadership and players are always proud to stand with workers in Michigan and everywhere else. We don’t think voters chose this, and we don’t think workers deserve this.”

The NFLPA is no stranger to labor disputes. NFL owners locked out players before the start of the 2011 season, and the players association was vocal in its support of the NFL Referees Association when the league locked out its officials at the beginning of this season.

Last year, the NFLPA opposed Indiana’s push for “right-to-work” just weeks before Indianapolis hosted Super Bowl XLVI. “We share all the same issues that the American people share,” NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith told The Nation at the time. “We want decent wages. We want a fair pension. We want to be taken care of when we get hurt. We want a decent and safe working environment. So when you look at proposed legislation in a place like Indiana that wants to call it something like ‘Right to Work,’ I mean, let’s just put the hammer on the nail. It’s untrue.”

Players, including Chicago Bears quarterback and Indiana native Jay Cutler, also spoke out against the Indiana law. While in Indianapolis, Smith marched with the UNITE-HERE union when its hotel workers were protesting low wages, missed overtime pay, and the firing of contract workers at local Hyatt hotels.

With such a short time table between introduction of the Michigan legislation and expected passage, Atallah said the players association had no plans for public actions against the right-to-work proceedings, but he iterated that the union stands with workers in Michigan. “We disagree with it and we’ll continue to stand with Michigan’s workers,” Atallah said.


In an email to ThinkProgress, Major League Baseball Players Association Executive Director Michael Weiner said his union also opposes the “right-to-work” push.

“Major League Baseball Players Association has always stood by the principle that all who reap the many benefits of union representation should contribute to their operation,” Weiner said. “All union members — either auto workers, teachers, firefighters, or the American League champion Detroit Tigers — oppose legislation designed to weaken unions. The economic health of our country cannot be revitalized by depriving workers of their voice in the workplace.”

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