Sunday Night Scabs
September 10, 2012 9:39 am
By: Matthew McDermott
Yesterday was the first Sunday of the NFL Season, and a full 15 games were staffed by scab officials with dubious qualifications. The referees’ union, the National Football League Referees Association (NFLRA), is asking for a relative pittance in light of the league’s eight billion in revenues — yet NFL owners, fresh off a bitter dispute with players, are citing a weakened economy as justification for the lockout.
In its criticism of the lockout, the NFLRA is correctly pointing to the ability of its experienced referees to make the game safer. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka concurs. During an interview on Convention Lunch Break TV Trumka stated: “I’m worried about the health and safety of a lot of players because these (replacement referees have) never even done college-(level) games.” (Deadspin has a hilarious account of some deer-in-the-headlights officiating by scab referee Don King, who spends his days working as a union lawyer. (!))
Negotiations on a seven-year contract for officials broke down over pension and salary disagreements. The NFL wants to dismantle the existing defined benefit pension and replace it with a 401(k) plan, citing the heavy reliance of corporate America on the latter model. On salary negotiations, the NFL and NFLRA are about $16 million apart, or $75,000 per team. The NFL has proposed initial five to 10 percent raises, but the refs feel that 20% is fair. (Sixteen million dollars — a fraction of one percent of the league’s revenue — is apparently worth a lockout.) The NFL and NFLRA also disagree on full-time status for referees — most have other jobs — and the pool, or “bench,” of referees on-deck.
The NFL Players’ Association supports the referees, but can’t strike in solidarity due to a clause in their new contract. (Though NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith recently expressed solidarity with Hyatt Workers, issuing a directive to boycott the abusive hotel chain).
Jeff MacGregor made an impassioned plea for fan solidarity on behalf of the locked out officials for ESPN:
You know that your leisure to watch an NFL game on Sunday was argued and bargained and fought for by unions, right? That the wages you spent on that game-day flatscreen were argued and bargained and fought for by unions, right? That your standing as a member of the American middle class was argued and bargained and fought for by 200 years of collective effort and sacrifice and blood on the part of folks just like you, right?
Perhaps Sunday’s blown calls will encourage fans to insist on the regulars.
Image from here