Imagine you work for a company that manufactures and
distributes a variety of products – hey, maybe you do! Each product is unique
in some way, and therefore assembled at a different factory, perhaps even at
locations spread across the continent. You might explain to friends and family
that you work for whatever particular brand your department is involved with,
but technically you are a tiny part of a much larger entity.
Now suppose a relatively small number of the company’s
factories are struggling to turn a profit, or at least break even. Why? Probably
because a particular factory is making a product the general public isn’t
interested in. The factory doesn’t necessarily require shutting down, although
that is an option. However, it could be converted to manufacture a different
product, or some of the profits from the other factories could be used to cover
some of those losses if the product was deemed somehow useful.
After all, we’re talking about an enormous company, and one
that is currently experiencing record growth at that – meaning they are taking
in more money than ever.
Except rather than re-purpose a few factories, operate them
at a loss, or shut down one or two, that enormous company which for the most
part is doing extremely well decides it’s much easier if they can take the
money from you, their employee. We’re not simply talking about negotiating a
lower share of revenues with your union reps when the time comes, either – but yes,
that too. The company demands all of its factory workers take a 24% pay
cut across the board, or it will cease operations.
Meanwhile, many of these individual departments have been so
overwhelmingly successful of late that they were able to give several of those
same employees huge raises as recently as a couple months ago. Who knows, maybe
you were one of the lucky ones. However, because the company is unable to
properly manage all of its assets, and is unwilling to take steps to rectify
the real problems, the money is supposed to come out of your pocket.
Now tell me: even if you were in your dream job, can you
honestly say you would take this lying down? You would agree to a significant
salary rollback in addition to a smaller share of the company’s overall
revenues – not to mention agree to policies some of which are designed almost
solely to suppress pay – when there are alternative solutions? When your union
just agreed to massive salary rollbacks eight years ago?
Replace the word company with NHL, and factory with the word
team. This is the lockout in a nutshell, folks, and yeah, I’m choosing sides.
The real question is why aren’t you?
Federal mediators spent two days on this before throwing
their hands in the air and walking away on Thursday. The season is all but lost
now. Yet the common refrain I most often read or hear in reference to any
hockey-related discussion is both players and owners are being greedy, so to
hell with them both.
For the record, greed is marked in part by a selfish and/or
excessive desire for more, according to Merriam-Webster. The players aren’t
actually asking for more here. They are mostly asking employers to honor their
True, owners have since backed off of a 24% reduction in pay
– but they have not backed off of a salary rollback entirely, and that seems to
be the main hang-up here. The supposed “make whole provision” doesn’t actually
make these contracts whole, you see.
Maybe a professional athlete is not your typical person, but
lately he seems to be sharing the plight of many typical workers in today’s
world. Obviously clubs would not have offered contracts to players that they
could not afford to pay, so why should the working-class guy (relatively
speaking) take a hit after the fact? And bear in mind, this isn’t just any
business – if you happen to own a professional sports franchise, you were
probably doing fairly well to begin with. The owners are already wealthy.
Never mind the fact that you’ve probably never attended a
sporting event of any kind because of who was sitting in the owner’s suite.
Some fans tend to begrudge athletes because they make millions of dollars, but
it’s an industry the fans built and support. How much of that money should line
one man’s pockets, a man who is hardly visible in most cases, as opposed to
those who are performing the skilled labor?
Which is not to say the NHL has no case at all. Both the NFL
and NBA reached agreements to distribute a lower percentage of revenue to
players within the past 18 months, and pro hockey almost certainly needs to
follow suit. Having said that, those other leagues never mandated salary
rollbacks on contracts already signed. And you can’t make the case the NHL was
ever bargaining in good faith when you look at the size of the contracts that
were handed out during this summer’s free-agency period.
The players aren’t under some moral imperative to accept an
unfair deal any more than any other human being just because they play a game for a
living. This is their livelihood, and somebody is trying to take it from them.