Thursday, February 2, 2006
In a column today by William Rhoden in the New York Times (subscription required), Upshaw was quoted as saying, "The bottom line is, I don't work for [retired NFL football players]. They don't hire me and they can't fire me. They can complain about me all day long. They can have their opinion. But the active players have the vote. That's who pays my salary."
And while this is technically the right answer (to the extent that retired workers are not considered statutory employees under the NLRA or members of the collective bargaining unit), Upshaw is doing no favors to himself or his union in ignoring the growing concerns of retired football players over such things as pensions and death benefits.
This is for the obvious reason that active players will someday soon (given the short duration of most NFL playing careers) be retired players themselves. And, as such, active players should, and do, care very much about how their union will treat them once they are retired.
Now, it may be argued that current players have substantially different interests than old-time football players in that they will have more lavish pensions and larger playing salaries to rely upon and, thus, will not have the same concerns that current retirees have. But a perspective like that ignores the whole concept of what it means to be in a union. I still remember the speech that the fictional Reuben gave in the movie Norma Rae about how Reuben's father (a union member) had a large extended family at his funeral when he died as a result of his union ties.
In short, Upshaw's vision of his role as the head of union is technically accurate, but miserly, and short-sighted to the point of being destructive.
Hat Tip: Sam Bagenstos