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UFC recommends fighters 'say No to the unions' (UPDATED)

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The UFC is warning its fighters about the risks that come with getting involved with the Teamsters Union and Culinary Workers Union 226

When questioned in the past about the possibility of the fighters organizing the UFC's execs have always come across as rather blasé about it.

"If it happens, it happens," Dana White was quoted by MMAWeekly.

"We have no role," Lorenzo Fertitta told reporters at the UFC 2010 Fan Expo . "So we're not in a position to say we support it, or we're against it. That's entirely up to [the fighters]."

But ever since the announcement by the Teamsters and UNITE HERE that they were going to try and assist fighters in organizing an association the UFC's demeanor seems to have changed. First there was a statement they gave to MMAWeekly where they warned fighters that the Unions were trying to use "UFC athletes as pawns to advance this hidden agenda." This was followed by an email sent to the roster calling the unions efforts "shameful and pathetic."

Now the UFC has emailed a second message to its fighters cautioning them the risks involved with signing union cards:

_______________________________________

Message from UFC

Dear Athletes,

Based on the recent announcement by the unions claiming they want to organize UFC athletes, we suspect they will be asking you to sign a "union card". So we thought there were a few things you'd want to consider about possible unionization.

Will the Teamsters Union and Culinary Workers Union 226 Really Look Out for Your Best Interests?


Joining the Teamsters Union and Culinary Workers Union 226 could change everything. To begin with, the unions want to treat you like an employee, which could cause you to lose the advantages and benefits of being an independent contractor. Also, your career and professional life could be turned over to union bosses who have no idea what it takes to be a mixed martial arts athlete.

The unions say they want to help you organize, but what does that really mean for you? 

If you sign a union card:

  • Teamsters Union and Culinary Workers Union 226 could use your signed union card to actually limit your bargaining power. They could assume complete control as your exclusive bargaining representative and spokesperson, completely restricting your important voice during contract negotiations. They could be in control, not you.
  • Being a part of their union could force you to be completely submissive to union bosses and individuals who have not spent a day in the mixed martial arts business. Ultimately, a union could determine who you can and cannot fight, and how often you fight. They could be in control, not you.

If you value your voice and independence, we encourage you to reject the unions. Let your voice be heard and say "No" to the unions. 

And in case you still don't believe the unions have their own agenda, take a minute to read this editorial from the Las Vegas Review-Journal newspaper: Click Here

Sincerely,
Kirk D. Hendrick
Zuffa, LLC, dba Ultimate Fighting Championship
Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer

_______________________________________

Considering the history between Zuffa and the Culinary Union it is understandable that they would be less than receptive to any efforts they might be undertaking on behalf of the fighters.  Even so some of Hendrick's statements raise questions.

Much of the email focused on the idea of fighters will be asked to sign union cards before joining the Teamsters or Culinary Union. Both of these would be surprising if true. I have yet to hear of any fighter being asked to sign a union card (the first step towards organizing a union) and if it were taking place that would be counter to what Chris Griswold, an official from Teamsters Local 996, said was their objective. According to Griswald the unions would be focused on assisting the fighters in organizing their own association and were not looking for them to join existing unions. I have been informed that this is also the goal of the MMAFA (Mixed Martial Arts Association), a group that includes Nathan Quarry, Jon Fitch,  Ryan Jimmo, attorney Rob Maysey, and others, that is also trying to organize fighters.

I asked Culinary Union, 226 if the would care to give me a statement regarding the UFC's email but as of this time they have yet to respond. The MMAFA also declined an official response but did direct me to the comments on their Facebook page.

In MMA, who determines pay, when you fight, sponsors, and level of promotion? Who determines sponsor/merchandising policies, PED policies, and lobbies commissions for the passage of rules that greatly impact you? Do the athletes participate or have a say in any of these things?

How do you get a voice?
For seat at table-speak together-and extend the Muhammad Ali Act to cover Mixed Martial Arts.

So what do the fighters think about all this? To give us a sense, Bloody Elbow's own Josh Samman gave me a statement from his perspective as a current UFC fighter.

It's difficult to not get an overwhelming sense of folks taking the UFC roster for idiots here. It's inconceivable to me how the Culinary Union, the same organization that lobbies against our sport in New York, expects to sign a single UFC fighter. It comes off very much as a power grab to use MMA fighters as pawns for leverage over the Fertittas.

I don't want to be involved in any capacity in the battle between those two, and that's what it appears like they're trying to drag us into. The UFC's response email was not particularly strong, and could have been more informative on the subject. A better approach may have been to write several op-eds, to multiple newspapers, then email us a list of them, instead of one weak one at the end that makes jokes about the Culinary Union tapping out.

I'm not an attorney, nor am I an expert on unions. From what I've read, a fighter's association may be a more feasible option. I'm not opposed to either, but we've got to wait for the correct people to come along. These are not those people.

If that is a common sentiment if would seem the Culinary and Teamsters Unions have their work cut out for them.

UPDATE:

We received a statement from Chris Griswold, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 986, which reads:

We have been encouraged by the positive response to our announcement last month. We support MMA fighters who want to join together, form an association, and have control over their careers and their sport like professional athletes in other major sports. We will continue to talk to them and look forward to hearing from more of them.