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UnderGround Forums >> Two hurdles to fighter unionization


7/22/13 3:23 PM
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Fighter compensation is one of the hot topics in MMA this year, with various parties arguing about whether fighter pay is reasonable, and if not, where it should come from. Should the lower tier be getting more, taken from top main event fighters? Or should it come from managament? Or should ticket and PPV prices be higher? Should top main event fighters make more, and prelim fighters less, and the main event fighters are the draws?

One frequently proposed solution is for fighters to unionize, and thereby presumably draw a larger share of the income in MMA.

UFC president Dana White has expressed little concern at all about the prospect, saying repeatedly that it is up to the fighters, and not him.

“The thing about fighting is, fighting is not a team sport; it’s an individual sport,” White told MMAWeekly in 2012. “It’s going to be tough to see a day when Silva or GSP is giving up big chunks of their money to guys who won’t make two fights in the UFC.”

“If it happens, it happens. I have to negotiate with somebody on the fight contracts.”

In an extended piece at BloodyElbow, John S. Nash interviewed two professors with a specialty in labor relations, Dr. James B. Dworkin from the University of Purdue, and Professor Zev J. Eigen from Northwestern University, to go over the feasibility of unionizing MMA.

If the fighters in the UFC did decide to unionize, how would they do it? The rather straightforward process can be explained in three simple steps:

Step 1: Get at least 30% of the roster to sign authorization cards signifying their desire to be represented by a union, and then present these signed cards to a Regional Office of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

Step 2: Once the NLRB has certified these signatures, they would hold and supervise an election during which the fighters could vote "yes" or "no" on unionization.

Step 3: If the majority voted "yes," then the fighters of the UFC would now have their own union, which could then immediately enter into negotiations with their employers on their behalf.

However, two things stand in the way.

Unlike in baseball or football, the athletes of MMA do not have the luxury of being together during preseasons and the long extended regular season, where they can gather to discuss the merits of forming a union, create organizing committees, plan strategies to collect the required signatures and win the vote, etc. Instead, the UFC has a roster of up to 400 active fighters spread across the far reaches of the globe, who rarely see each other outside of a handful of fellow UFC fighters in their gym or camp. Of this number, there is also a sizable amount of turnover. After every event, fighters are let go while new names are signed to the promotion. Convincing and attaining the signatures of thirty percent of an ever-changing roster from around the world in the face of likely resistance from the owner is nothing short of a herculean task.

Even if 400 fighters across several continents could accomplish the first step, it would not matter, because they are each classified as independent contractors, and independent contractors cannot form a union.

While Eigen argues that UFC fighters should probably be classified as employees based on how restrictive their contracts are, as long as they're not, under federal law, independent contractors can not legally form a union. Any attempt to do so would be rejected by the National Labor Relations Board.

Thus, the idea of an MMA Fighters' Union is dead before it's even born.

"Another option," says Eigen, "which is open to independent contractors is an association. Fighters could look at this to gain some of the same benefits from a union."

A union is an organization of workers who act jointly to negotiate benefits and rights within their workplace. An association is a non-profit organization that promotes a profession by maintaining standards and advocating its interests. Because unions directly negotiate on behalf of the employees, they are allowed under the National Labor Relation Act to collectively bargain and strike if necessary. Neither of these tools is available to an association. That doesn't mean, though, that an association would have no impact on the fighters' current conditions.

"Having an association is going to give you better protections than having no representation at all," says Dworkin. "It could help them get little higher wages, better health coverage. Another reason is the safety issue. With concussions being a serious thing, you want someone representing their issues and not the owners."

While an association could help give a voice to the fighters on a whole range of issues - testing, TRT exemptions, pay minimums, judging, refereeing, rule changes - it also could prove beneficial to the UFC with regards to their own lobbying efforts. "I imagine," said Eigen, "that it would be harder to argue against [sanctioning MMA] when it's the fighters advocating for it and not a lobbyist for a huge corporation looking to expand its market."

In comparison to a union, with its mandatory collection of signatures and NLRB supervised vote, the forming of an association is a much simpler process. All it really takes is for someone to decide that there needs to be a Mixed Martial Artists Fighters Association. (In fact, someone already did.) Of course, there's more to it than simply declaring one. Organizing, drafting mission statements, determining leadership, financing, and a host of other items still have to be taken care of, for it to be effective. An association's strength corresponds to the amount of support it has among the fighters.

Read entire article...

What do you think UG? Should there be a union? Should there be an association? And if so, how.


7/22/13 3:53 PM
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YHTOMIT2001
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None of this will go anywhere. The guys w/ leverage don't need an association or union. Phone Post 3.0
7/22/13 4:38 PM
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Macedawgg
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YHTOMIT2001 - None of this will go anywhere. The guys w/ leverage don't need an association or union. Phone Post 3.0

Of course they do.  An Association would help them the most--by far--just as in all the other sports, and in SAG for the biggest stars. 

7/22/13 5:31 PM
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CindyO
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Macedawgg - 
YHTOMIT2001 - None of this will go anywhere. The guys w/ leverage don't need an association or union. Phone Post 3.0

Of course they do.  An Association would help them the most--by far--just as in all the other sports, and in SAG for the biggest stars. 


Then I guess its a good thing you created one, huh? You GO, boy:)

 

Cindy

7/22/13 5:39 PM
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CindyO
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philipee32 - I find it hard to believe there is no money for the fighters, take it from dana and fertitas. The ufc got bigger and more profitable but the fighter pay stayed the same. Its like walmart saying they cant afford to pay more to their employees, but there are companies like trader joes that do pay more.

Also, since the fighters would have trouble meeting for unionization there is this thing called the internet that solves this problem globalization.

The ufc got bigger and more profitable but the fighter pay stayed the same.

 

LOL! Really? Of course it did, and that's why entry level contract pay is now 6k/6k and not 2k/2k like it was just a few years ago. Nope, the needle hasn't moved a bit, has it?

And who said they couldn't afford to pay more? They can but there's no reason to since they already pay better than everyone else, provide insurance and pay 100% of the premiums, as well as pay bonuses left and right.

If you don't like the contract don't sign the dayum thang, no???

 

Cindy

7/22/13 5:48 PM
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Macedawgg
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In a sport that operates as a sport with options, that is fine advice Cindy-O! 

Of course, that isn't MMA.

7/22/13 7:27 PM
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MMALOGIC
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Macedawgg - 
YHTOMIT2001 - None of this will go anywhere. The guys w/ leverage don't need an association or union. Phone Post 3.0

Of course they do.  An Association would help them the most--by far--just as in all the other sports, and in SAG for the biggest stars. 


Mace, how close are you in getting your association where you want it to be?  what are your major challenges?

7/22/13 7:37 PM
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MMALOGIC
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CindyO - 
philipee32 - I find it hard to believe there is no money for the fighters, take it from dana and fertitas. The ufc got bigger and more profitable but the fighter pay stayed the same. Its like walmart saying they cant afford to pay more to their employees, but there are companies like trader joes that do pay more.

Also, since the fighters would have trouble meeting for unionization there is this thing called the internet that solves this problem globalization.

The ufc got bigger and more profitable but the fighter pay stayed the same.

 

LOL! Really? Of course it did, and that's why entry level contract pay is now 6k/6k and not 2k/2k like it was just a few years ago. Nope, the needle hasn't moved a bit, has it?

And who said they couldn't afford to pay more? They can but there's no reason to since they already pay better than everyone else, provide insurance and pay 100% of the premiums, as well as pay bonuses left and right.

If you don't like the contract don't sign the dayum thang, no???

 

Cindy


Aren't you describing the attributes of a monopsony? The very thing the article discussed?

Paying more and providing more benefits than everyone else isnt a monopsony.

The UFC is not a monopsony in the USA.  you have bellator with just as many live events on free cable as the UFC with millions being poured into it by viacom.  with 26 plus live events a year they are buying and hiring almost as much talent as the UFC.

In addition you have hundreds of regional shows happening all across the country buying services.

The major difference is that the UFC monetizes the talent better than anyone else and thus they can pay more and offer better benefits than everyone else.

7/22/13 7:37 PM
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Macedawgg
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Not as close as I would like to be obviously--but progress. 

The biggest challenge is the "discretionary" pay component.  Because that  pay is "discretionary"--guys are afraid to do even certain independent business activities that don't involve Zuffa at all.  To quote one fighter, "they have me by the balls.  Half of my pay is not by contract." 

Another, "they don't want us making any money outside of them--that will give us power." 

Dana didn't just threaten to remove of the night bonuses--he threatened to remove ALL the discretionary bonuses. . . most missed the distinction. 

7/22/13 7:40 PM
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Hurt Bottom
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MMALOGIC - 
mrwhipple - 
CindyO - 
philipee32 - I find it hard to believe there is no money for the fighters, take it from dana and fertitas. The ufc got bigger and more profitable but the fighter pay stayed the same. Its like walmart saying they cant afford to pay more to their employees, but there are companies like trader joes that do pay more.

Also, since the fighters would have trouble meeting for unionization there is this thing called the internet that solves this problem globalization.

The ufc got bigger and more profitable but the fighter pay stayed the same.

 

LOL! Really? Of course it did, and that's why entry level contract pay is now 6k/6k and not 2k/2k like it was just a few years ago. Nope, the needle hasn't moved a bit, has it?

And who said they couldn't afford to pay more? They can but there's no reason to since they already pay better than everyone else, provide insurance and pay 100% of the premiums, as well as pay bonuses left and right.

If you don't like the contract don't sign the dayum thang, no???

 

Cindy


Aren't you describing the attributes of a monopsony? The very thing the article discussed?

Paying more and providing more benefits than everyone else isnt a monopsony.

The UFC is not a monopsony in the USA.  you have bellator with just as many live events on free cable as the UFC with millions being poured into it by viacom.  with 26 plus live events a year they are buying and hiring almost as much talent as the UFC.

In addition you have hundreds of regional shows happening all across the country buying services.

The major difference is that the UFC monetizes the talent better than anyone else and thus they can pay more and offer better benefits than everyone else.


i refuse to read your post because you can't spell monoply
7/22/13 7:41 PM
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Hurt Bottom
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thats the hook
7/22/13 7:58 PM
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Immaculata
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7/22/13 8:19 PM
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Brian J DSouza
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Macedawgg - 

Not as close as I would like to be obviously--but progress. 

The biggest challenge is the "discretionary" pay component.  Because that  pay is "discretionary"--guys are afraid to do even certain independent business activities that don't involve Zuffa at all.  To quote one fighter, "they have me by the balls.  Half of my pay is not by contract." 

Another, "they don't want us making any money outside of them--that will give us power." 

Dana didn't just threaten to remove of the night bonuses--he threatened to remove ALL the discretionary bonuses. . . most missed the distinction. 


Interesting inside info. Essentially revealing how much leverage Zuffa actually has. Tim Kennedy probably kissed his discretionary pay goodbye when he talked about real financial numbers.

Anyone who wants to actually understand what is being debated needs to actually read up on the specific issues involved--competition, monopoly, fighters ASSOCIATION, guilds--instead of getting caught in the smokescreen of debating what various unions did wrong in unrelated events/industries  over the last few decades.

7/22/13 10:52 PM
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RicGillespie
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That was a really informative read. Sounds like an association is easier to create than a union, at least at this time. Maybe they could form an association for all MMA fighters then transition into a union afterwards.
7/22/13 10:59 PM
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jimbonice
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In the story, it states that independent contractors can't unionize. The issue, which the article alluded to, is that the fighters aren't independent, but they're dependent contractors. The contracts are so restrictive that any independence isn't there. An example of an independent contractor is like a plumber who is hired to clean out your plugged up crapper. That plumber can clean out any crapper he wants, not just yours. Now think of the plumber that is hired by a big company as a contractor and can only clean out the toilets they tell him to, and he has a non compete clause.

Dependant contractors can unionize. Phone Post
7/23/13 3:39 AM
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big poooop
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Attention Chris27! you are needed in the fighter union thread. JerodR could you please report as well. Cindy O and MMALOGIC are here doing the best they can, but we need all shills to this thread. Macedawgg is attacking ZUFFA, we need help to deal with this threat
7/23/13 4:17 AM
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Devlin
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jimbonice - In the story, it states that independent contractors can't unionize. The issue, which the article alluded to, is that the fighters aren't independent, but they're dependent contractors. The contracts are so restrictive that any independence isn't there. An example of an independent contractor is like a plumber who is hired to clean out your plugged up crapper. That plumber can clean out any crapper he wants, not just yours. Now think of the plumber that is hired by a big company as a contractor and can only clean out the toilets they tell him to, and he has a non compete clause.

Dependant contractors can unionize. Phone Post
hmm seems sensilbe then again my knowledge on american law is pretty poor. Phone Post
7/23/13 5:45 AM
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JonnyJJJ
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Seems quite straight forward to me...
If your Shit or less established - get paid less!
If you do good or are more established - get paid more!

Same as any job really.
7/23/13 5:55 AM
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CindyO
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Macedawgg - 

Not as close as I would like to be obviously--but progress. 

The biggest challenge is the "discretionary" pay component.  Because that  pay is "discretionary"--guys are afraid to do even certain independent business activities that don't involve Zuffa at all.  To quote one fighter, "they have me by the balls.  Half of my pay is not by contract." 

Another, "they don't want us making any money outside of them--that will give us power." 

Dana didn't just threaten to remove of the night bonuses--he threatened to remove ALL the discretionary bonuses. . . most missed the distinction. 


Didn't he change his mind about that? Now what is the excuse? They have an association, yours. Now you can solve all of the "problems" and do your thang=)

 

Cindy

7/23/13 5:57 AM
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CindyO
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RockyBullwinkle - 
Hurt Bottom - 
MMALOGIC - 
mrwhipple - 
CindyO - 
philipee32 - I find it hard to believe there is no money for the fighters, take it from dana and fertitas. The ufc got bigger and more profitable but the fighter pay stayed the same. Its like walmart saying they cant afford to pay more to their employees, but there are companies like trader joes that do pay more.

Also, since the fighters would have trouble meeting for unionization there is this thing called the internet that solves this problem globalization.

The ufc got bigger and more profitable but the fighter pay stayed the same.

 

LOL! Really? Of course it did, and that's why entry level contract pay is now 6k/6k and not 2k/2k like it was just a few years ago. Nope, the needle hasn't moved a bit, has it?

And who said they couldn't afford to pay more? They can but there's no reason to since they already pay better than everyone else, provide insurance and pay 100% of the premiums, as well as pay bonuses left and right.

If you don't like the contract don't sign the dayum thang, no???

 

Cindy


Aren't you describing the attributes of a monopsony? The very thing the article discussed?

Paying more and providing more benefits than everyone else isnt a monopsony.

The UFC is not a monopsony in the USA.  you have bellator with just as many live events on free cable as the UFC with millions being poured into it by viacom.  with 26 plus live events a year they are buying and hiring almost as much talent as the UFC.

In addition you have hundreds of regional shows happening all across the country buying services.

The major difference is that the UFC monetizes the talent better than anyone else and thus they can pay more and offer better benefits than everyone else.


i refuse to read your post because you can't spell monoply

Damn Internet. Can't tell if you're being sarcastic or stupid.

LMAO!

 

Cindy

7/23/13 6:00 AM
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CindyO
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Macedawgg - 

Not as close as I would like to be obviously--but progress. 

The biggest challenge is the "discretionary" pay component.  Because that  pay is "discretionary"--guys are afraid to do even certain independent business activities that don't involve Zuffa at all.  To quote one fighter, "they have me by the balls.  Half of my pay is not by contract." 

Another, "they don't want us making any money outside of them--that will give us power." 

Dana didn't just threaten to remove of the night bonuses--he threatened to remove ALL the discretionary bonuses. . . most missed the distinction. 


How many Viacom/Bellator fighters have you signed up? Or do they have some kind of bonus incentive that is keeping their guys out of your association, too?

 

Cindy

7/23/13 6:21 AM
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Devlin
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CindyO -
Macedawgg - 

Not as close as I would like to be obviously--but progress. 

The biggest challenge is the "discretionary" pay component.  Because that  pay is "discretionary"--guys are afraid to do even certain independent business activities that don't involve Zuffa at all.  To quote one fighter, "they have me by the balls.  Half of my pay is not by contract." 

Another, "they don't want us making any money outside of them--that will give us power." 

Dana didn't just threaten to remove of the night bonuses--he threatened to remove ALL the discretionary bonuses. . . most missed the distinction. 


How many Viacom/Bellator fighters have you signed up? Or do they have some kind of bonus incentive that is keeping their guys out of your association, too?

 

Cindy

yeah screw this guy for trying to help. Phone Post
7/23/13 6:48 AM
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Bobby Lupo
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The 2 hurdles are the union haters who own the UFC (why isn't MMA legit in NY?) and the fighters themselves.

Unless we're fighting for the UFC or paying fighters; who gives a fuck? THe fighters aren't worried about how food is getting on your table. Stop feeling sorry for grown men who make a decision.

They're also banging mad porno chicks. Even GSP.

7/23/13 7:08 AM
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Steve4192
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Macedawgg - 

Not as close as I would like to be obviously--but progress. 

The biggest challenge is the "discretionary" pay component.  Because that  pay is "discretionary"--guys are afraid to do even certain independent business activities that don't involve Zuffa at all.  To quote one fighter, "they have me by the balls.  Half of my pay is not by contract." 

Another, "they don't want us making any money outside of them--that will give us power." 

Dana didn't just threaten to remove of the night bonuses--he threatened to remove ALL the discretionary bonuses. . . most missed the distinction. 


I thought that was what you wanted?

Dana didn't just threaten to eliminate all bonuses. He threatened to eliminate all bonuses in order to fund an increase base pay. I would have thought you would be ecstatic if he followed through with that threat.
7/23/13 7:11 AM
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Steve4192
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Devlin - 
CindyO -
Macedawgg - 

Not as close as I would like to be obviously--but progress. 

The biggest challenge is the "discretionary" pay component.  Because that  pay is "discretionary"--guys are afraid to do even certain independent business activities that don't involve Zuffa at all.  To quote one fighter, "they have me by the balls.  Half of my pay is not by contract." 

Another, "they don't want us making any money outside of them--that will give us power." 

Dana didn't just threaten to remove of the night bonuses--he threatened to remove ALL the discretionary bonuses. . . most missed the distinction. 


How many Viacom/Bellator fighters have you signed up? Or do they have some kind of bonus incentive that is keeping their guys out of your association, too?

 

Cindy

yeah screw this guy for trying to help. Phone Post

It's actually an interesting question.

If the UFC's discretionary bonuses are the problem, then logically one would expect that a disproportionate number of non-UFC fighters have signed up with MMAFA.

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