Footballer Rights as Employees

Love me, embrace me

I find this a pertinent time to write on a subject which is very close to my heart: the rights of the workers, specifically those of the players (read: employees) of FC Barcelona. I realize the contentious nature of the rights of workers and I could weed through your responses one-by-one but frankly they are insignificant edit and I tire of incessant buffonery, even before it begins. If you would like to know more about what you, as an American (if you are American), can thank unions for, then find this link, and enjoy. This also comes with an eye toward the oncoming labor strife in La Liga based upon TV revenue and a possible strike of this weekend’s football. The idea here is that employees have rights, and their rights supersede those of the club, as it is effectively a corporation. I know many of you will question my love for the club, and that’s silly argument, since love or hate of a club does not mean I put its well-being over that of an actual human. So proceed down that path at your own risk.

This writing had more to do with my interest in the topic and less to do with the oncoming strike in La Liga regarding TV money.

I guess all of this starts building in me when I hear the all too popular refrain when a player leaves a club about how he should have been more “loyal” to the club and the fans or whatever. It is to be expected I suppose. Fans are looking out for themselves and the club they hold dear, and the players are, in the long run, interchangeable. Someone once said that being a fan of a professional sports team is basically like cheering for laundry, because the players come and go, but the jersey stays, for much longer (akin to how a music critic is effectively writing about his or her mail). To this end, the fan reacts with rage and anger when a player decides to leave for another club or turns down an offer from the club because it is seen as inadequate. The jersey wins. The player is de-humanized. “Why did so-and-so leave?” “Why didn’t he stay around and work harder for a starting spot?” “He should have been more like [insert player from youth academy who still plays with club]?” We have heard it all before. Incidentally, I have also written about this before in terms of loyalty in professional sports.

The obvious problem with this is that the person is still a human being, with rights and ideas, and a life to live. That person has to make the best decision for them and their family, not for a club or a fan. When the offer comes in, the player must weigh how much the rest of his youth and young manhood is worth. Rest assured that $30M over 6 years to the player is a gracious sum, but also understand that when said player has used up whatever value the club places on him, he’s going to be left in the gutter by the club. Or at least a gutter of sorts.

This is all contingent on a foundational argument of course. One that must be accepted before any topic can really be broached outside of the most generic of statements. It is simply that all people are unfortunately not born equal, but that the so-called birth lottery should not stop everyone from having an equal opportunity to succeed and that all people deserve equal treatment in terms of working conditions, health care, and the like.

It thus behooves the workers to form unions and bargain for better pay and equal rights, or somehow bargain in an individual capacity for their own pursuits, though this would like hold much less weight for the employee since it is only their services, and not those of the whole (unless your name is Messi). The union gives power for the employee to bargain effectively and for better pay, time, and services from the employer. This may seem an overstatement, but I firmly believe that without unions in the public and private sectors, we would return to the robber barons of old. Because unions gain political power and can lobby for regulations that most of us enjoy today. The corporation (employer) would seek to keep as much money for itself and its stockholders, meaning lessened services and opportunities for the worker who has no real power at that point other than their own skill and labor, which may be undone at any point through negligence, stupidity, blind chance, or any other similar fact of everyday human life. Without a cohesive group that gives some kind of power, the employer is free to treat the employee as they choose, without regard for overall conditions, since no overall contract is in place.

Now, before you start in on me, with your “but corporations aren’t inherently evil” and “socialism” blah blah blah, listen. Corporations, just like everything else on earth that is not named Karl Rove, is not inherently evil. Nothing is inherently evil because we aren’t born like that, and corporations aren’t all created like that. Some are altruistic, good to people and the planet, and benevolent to their employees, but this is not the rule, it’s the exception. If it were true, then the industrial revolution would have immediately produced increased livelihood among the workers because the companies got huge and should have therefore trickled the goods down to the worker. Except they didn’t. If you don’t believe me, read Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, or anything by Charles Dickens, or look at the treatment of employees back in those days. To cite but one easy example, look at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in 1911. Fires break out in a sewing factory in NYC, employees could not flee because managers and owners had locked the doors to keep them from taking breaks from their shifts. 146 burned to death or jumped to it from windows they eventually broke. 2 14-year-olds died. So yeah, cram it with walnuts. It’s the pursuit of profit, and with no restrictions in the form of unions and regulations, corporations will seek profit to no end.

This applies to the current situation because if the games do not go ahead this weekend then we will have people who say that the players are selfish. Well that is just stupid. If you are getting screwed and you could hold out in order to make the money you deserve, would you? I would. And before I hear one comment about how much the players are paid as a reason for making them selfish, please understand that the market controls how much they are paid, the unions simply attempt to make sure it is livable in the first instance, and fairly administered in the second. Further, I am unsure that wanting retirement benefits is so much selfish as it is self-preservation when your primary means of making money involves running miles everyday, taking your body past normal limits, and dealing with the mental scrutiny that comes with being a professional footballer in a small league, let alone with the really huge leagues. If you give the best years of your life to an employer, you should be rewarded in the end with retirement assistance. That’s just how it is.

The point here is not to insinuate that employees are not selfish or that no union is corrupt, because neither is true. People are selfish in many ways, and when groups gain power, they can become corrupt. But 1 or 2 wrongs do not excuse the wrongs of a 3rd in allowing employers to treat employees like cattle, taking what they want and then discarding the remains. When people work, they deserve to be treated equally and not poorly simply because they are employees, and that’s why a strike is occasionally good and why you should care. The players have rights to self-preservation just like the club does, they just have much less power to exercise theirs. Just some thoughts.

Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images Europe

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238 Comments

  1. Eklavya
    March 30, 2011

    YES! 70 FOR 2!!! We might miss this!

    • Eklavya
      March 30, 2011

      *we might win

  2. Diego
    March 30, 2011

    When The Guy with the stick hits the ball so hard that it hits the Ads, It’s a goal right ?

    • Jose
      March 30, 2011

      Well it’s four goals. Or two-thirds of a touchdown.

      • Diego
        March 30, 2011

        And The Guy pitching is like bowling trying to hit the wooden sticks ? 😀

      • Jose
        March 30, 2011

        Yeah, he is trying to throw the ball and hit the wicket, at which point I they get a wicket and the batter has to go out.

        It’s called a wicket because back in the olden days, they weren’t trying to knock out three sticks but rather a small furry animal that looked like this http://tinyurl.com/wickeeeeet

      • blitzen
        March 30, 2011

        Do they get to convert for an extra point? What is their wicket is sticky? Do they get a googly? 😉

  3. Lev
    March 30, 2011

    Eklavya aren’t you from Bangladesh? So in a test match between India and Pakistan….do you root for Pakistan because it is a muslim country or for India because you separated from Pakistan in the early 70s?

    • barca96
      March 30, 2011

      I thought she was Indian?
      hammeron is the only Bengali if Im not mistaken.

      • Lev
        March 30, 2011

        oh my bad

    • Cesc Pistol
      March 30, 2011

      And he’s a he.

  4. Josep
    March 30, 2011

    We’re still calling Eklavya a girl? nice! She’s teaching me cricket.

    Whoa thats a second six on the same at bat for Pakistan, this is getting tight boys and girls.

    Yes, this is also my first cricket match but Ek was helping a lot. Still confused but understand a lot more now.

    http://www.fifa.com/worldfootball/clubfootball/news/newsid=1409248.html?cid=twitter_voiceofthesite

    Thats for the Forlan’ers.

    and to everyone on the Fabregas situation… yes it looks like Fab left for first team football. But he really left his boyhood club which was at the time in trouble, to go to a club that was fresh off of one of the best runs in history.

    Now he’s trying to leave his current club who is having a similar drought that we did when he left, for this barca team.. coming off one of its best runs in history and considered one of the best clubs ever?

    DON’T SIGN HIM. Cesc just wants trophies, but he has NO loyalty.

  5. March 30, 2011

    I don’t understand cricket. At all.

    • Diego
      March 30, 2011

      High Five! 😀

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