Project Spearhead latest fighter organization effort

Monday, February 12, 2018

Be it a union or an athletes association, there have been varying efforts over the years to organize UFC and other professional MMA fighters. None have proven successful.

The latest to enter this difficult landscape is Project Spearhead. The effort is headed by labor attorney Lucas Middlebrook and MMA fighter Leslie Smith who is named the organization’s Interim President.

What sets this effort apart from its predecessors is a call to action that is clear, precise and easy to understand. Project Spearhead notes that UFC fighters are either independent contractors or employees but presently only enjoy the worst of both worlds. Past efforts to organize fighters seem split over which labor designation is best. Project Spearhead, on the other hand, does not seem invested in one designation over another rather seeks to clarify the fighters legal status and from there ensure that fighters enjoy the benefits and protections from their correct labor designation.  This is Big Tent politics. This is a recipe that can succeed. Project Spearhead lists the following Four Point Plan of action:

  • We need 30% of the fighters under contract with the UFC to sign authorization cards (If you have not signed an authorization card yet click here to do so now);
  • Once 30% of the fighters have signed cards we shall have approximately 150 cards, and we will submit them to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) where the NLRB will look at a list of 11 factors to decide whether or not we are independent contractors or employees. Exotic dancers and FedEx workers, among others, have already used this process to gain back wages and benefits and form unions. If the NLRB finds that we are employees, then we move forward with this plan. If the NLRB does not find that we are employees, then we are still independent contractors and are not eligible to become a union. However, if this occurs, we can continue our voluntary association to focus on bettering our profession. No names will be released by either the NLRB or the organizers of Project Spearhead, so everyone can sign without worrying about retaliation from the UFC.
  • If the NLRB determines we are employees and therefore eligible to unionize, then we will have an election, and in order to prevail, Project Spearhead will need 50% of the fighters plus 1, a simple majority, to vote in favor of Project Spearhead.
  • Elections will be held to determine the officers and Executive Board of the union. Once those positions are filled, we will move to choosing topics and working toward a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the UFC. The CBA will deal with whatever topics we decide are imperative to a healthy and productive fighter’s life.

Below is the authorization cards Project Spearhead asks current UFC fighters to fill out. Fighters have little to lose by doing so and getting clarity fo their legal status and organizing to help better their professional landscape.

Author Erik Magraken is a British Columbia litigation lawyer, combat sports law consultant, founder of the Combat Law Sports Blog, and profoundly appreciated UGer.