Sunday, January 15, 2012

"Right to Work" Means "No Right to a Team"

Brothers & Sisters,
DeMaurice F. Smith, the Executive Director of the National Football League Players Association, wrote the following opinion piece for Indiana newspapers - and we wanted to share it with you.

The Real Meaning of “Right to Work” Is No Right to a Team

By: DeMaurice F. Smith
Executive Director
National Football League Players Association

Indianapolis is the home of the upcoming Super Bowl; an event that is supposed to celebrate the best of America’s game, but also the best of the host city and state. The people and workers of Indiana have come together and worked hard to prepare for this upcoming Super Bowl for a long time, but they are also bracing for the potential damage caused by a legislative game being played off the field.

The so-called Indiana “Right to Work” Bill is bad for working men and women for one simple reason: it jeopardizes the ability of workers to organize as a team to protect, preserve and promote themselves as employees in a workplace, where management can always outspend workers and target individuals. During the NFL lockout and the months leading up to it, the Players of this great game learned lessons that most older American workers learned decades ago: namely, that all of the protections that employees currently have in the workplace resulted from the ability of employees to stand together as a team, protect their rights, and demand change for the better.  It is a lesson that many of us have not only forgotten but worse yet, simply never learned. The protections that millions of workers possess today, including fair pensions, workplace safety innovations, management supported health care plans, and compliance with occupational health standards, were achieved by thousands of workers standing together as ONE over decades to fight for those vital standards. An indisputable lesson of our American history is that none of those workplace protections came as a “gift” from corporations; rather, all of them resulted from the ability of workers to stand united and demand change when it would have been easy to fire or silence the voice of a single worker. The history is also clear that even when employees fought as a team, some of them paid a dear price for organizing and demanding fairness.  This bill would make future efforts even harder than they are today.

As employees of football teams, we were reminded of our own history as a collective group of players during our lockout. Players are extremely fortunate to be well compensated, but the history is that it took a strike by one of our players in the 1960s to create a pension for former players, and improvements in salary, free agency, work-rules and grievance procedures, tuition reimbursement were all collectively bargained benefits by a union that was supported and constituted by Players standing together as a team in the negotiation room. More recently, as a strong union, we achieved improvements in the players’ pension, obtained a Legacy Fund that reached back to increase pensions for former players, and negotiated rules for safer practices and games. From 2009 to the present, through their union, players collectively have taken aggressive steps to change the way concussions and head trauma are dealt with at practice, during games, as well as during a player’s post-career life. We know that one single player, just like any one single employee acting alone, could never achieve what we as a Team were able to achieve.

Today, the assault on that team of employees comes disguised in proposed legislation deviously named as “right to work,” and the reason why every employee should have concern is that it simply is not what it claims to be. This “right to work” is not a state constitutional amendment guaranteeing a state citizen a job. This “right to work” does not mandate a state to improve local schools so that educated young people are ensured of employment. Rather, this “right to work” legislation is simply designed to negatively impact the ability of employees to form teams that can go “toe-to-toe” with management in the hope of having a fair negotiation over issues that matter to working people.

In this time of extremely challenging economic conditions, where there are efforts to divide all of us, we have an obligation to move beyond the rhetoric and know the issues.  The legislation may have a catchy title, but that is all it provides to men and women who work for a living.  If you support this bill, do so by recognizing and calling it what it is: “the elimination of the ability to negotiate strongly and fairly with your employer” legislation.  Somehow, that description of the bill does not sound good for millions of people who work for a living. Get the facts at

We oppose this bill and stand in strong support of what needs to be every employees’ right to be member of a team to protect and preserve their rights for themselves and their families.

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