MMA fans and the MMA media talked extensively this month about the possibility of fighters in the UFC joining together to form a union. Lost in this story? The fact that the Fertitta family has a long and contentious history of alleged anti-union activity. Don't believe me? How about good old Uncle Sam?
The federal government’s complaint alleges that, from February 19 through April 7, Station managers broke federal labor laws 127 times. The complaint charges Station Casinos with engaging in a host of illegal activities against workers seeking to exercise their right to form a union, including the use of threats, intimidation, interrogation, surveillance, bribery, discouragement, discrimination, discipline and physical assault. No other Las Vegas gaming company has racked up so many federal government charges in such a short amount of time.
At the UFC Fan Expo held in Las Vegas prior to UFC 114, Lorenzo Fertitta addressed a fan's question about whether it was time for a fighter's union. Although Fertitta said the company had no role in deciding whether a union was appropriate for the fighters, he proceeded to explain in no uncertain terms why he didn't believe one was "necessary":
One of the things that's a little bit different is that fighting in general – I know a lot of people have talked about the same issue in boxing – fighting seems to be such a individual sport. And guys have different needs and different motivations, and what's good for a guy like Chuck Liddell is maybe not good for a kid like Paul Kelly coming up. They have different needs and are at different times in their careers, so I'm not sure if it works or not.
Despite assurances to the contrary, it seems apparent that fighters will face a fierce fight if they attempt any sort of collective bargaining posture, whether a union or Rob Maysey's MMAFA:
Workers at Station Casinos are standing up to join the Culinary and Bartenders unions because they want a better life for themselves and their families," said Culinary Union President Geoconda Arguello-Kline. "The company has responded not only with an aggressive anti-union campaign resulting in the government issuing a massive labor law complaint, but with an attack that is falling overwhelmingly on Latino workers.
Fighters and managers have complained quietly behind the scenes about the UFC's predatory business practices. The government's complaint shows that alleged unscrupulous behavior may not limited to the fight business.