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Hulk Hogan
(Journalist 1st Class Kristin Fitzsimmons)

In 1987, Jesse Ventura tried to organize a wrestlers union, but was thwarted by, among other things, Hulk Hogan telling Vince McMahon about the effort. Wrestlers are classified as independent contractors, not entitled to health insurance, Social Security, Medicare, or unemployment, even though they sign incredibly binding contracts that give the WWE enormous control over not just their work but their lives. Wrestlers sign contracts that agree they can have their pay cut or be fired if they miss work after being injured in the ring—meaning they work injured all the time—or contracts that potentially mean that "had Kanyon passed away while under contract, WWE could have produced a Kanyon DVD and not been obligated to share the proceeds with his family[.]"

Stephen Sonneveld lays out the case for a wrestlers union at Bleacher Report, writing:

Professional wrestling isn't the only industry using the independent contractor classification as a way to cut costs, and those corporations deserve equal scrutiny.

The end result is the same: it's the American worker who pays, it's the American worker who suffers, and it's the American worker who needs to stop being taken advantage of.

Similarly, reality television crew members need unions. The Writers Guild of America East has successfully organized workers at a number of reality shows, but recently, 30 workers from the show 1,000 Ways to Die were fired when they tried to organize the so-called "blue collar" show, made by the same production company as Deadliest Catch, Ice Road Truckers and Ax Men. One of the fired workers writes that:
Joining the union would allow us to have health insurance — something that is not asking for too much, especially from a hit show. It is easy to take advantage of a reality TV crew in this economy, especially for low-ball rates, by having members work 70-plus hour weeks on their feet, as they make nearly minimum wage in a non-union atmosphere. We wanted the opportunity to live the better, healthier lives which we deserve; hence we contacted unions to help us with that. “Together we are what we cannot be alone. United we stand, divided we fall.”
After firing the workers, the production company ended up stopping filming on remaining episodes when it had trouble finding a new crew who would cross a picket line.

And just as wrestlers and reality TV crew aren't much known for being unionized, but would benefit from it, very few fast food workers are union members—but bakers at six Panera Bread locations in southwest Michigan just voted to join the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union despite an anti-union campaign waged by the company.

In other words, unions and the need for unions defy stereotype. Workers of all kinds face working conditions that could be helped by unions, or want to and fight to join unions, or even—too rarely and after too much opposition—succeed. And when I say "too much opposition," take this example: Target is closing a store "for remodeling" that just happens to be the subject of a union organizing drive. The last time a Target was closed for remodeling was three or four years ago.

More below the fold.

  • I'm not saying beer isn't important, but ... maybe it was a little much for Carlsberg to be declared "vitally essential" by a court to prevent a strike in Lithuania.
  • Five reasons parents should oppose evaluating teachers on test scores.
  • The NFL Players Association wants to conduct its own investigation into the New Orleans Saints' bounty program:
    The union has no disciplinary authority over players, coaches or front-office executives in this situation. But several weeks ago, when the investigation first came to light, Goodell asked the union’s executive director, DeMaurice Smith, for his recommendation about player discipline. The league has not received an answer.
  • Fighting that $2.13 exploitation in restaurants.
  • The UAW is actively trying to organize workers at a Tennessee Volkswagen factory.
  • Your periodic reminder that work can be dangerous and strong regulations and oversight are necessary: One construction worker was killed and two others were injured when a building being demolished for Columbia University collapsed. A worker was killed in Whiteford, Michigan, after being pinned between the frame and wheels of a loaded truck.

    And a Metro-North Railroad worker was awarded more than $1 million in damages after being disciplined for reporting an injury sustained on the job.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Sat Mar 24, 2012 at 05:55 PM PDT.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions, Progressive Hippie, ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement, and Daily Kos.

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