Mr. Bettman Needs Some Labor Perspective

A hypothetical association is in need of reform and has been for some time. Previous attempts – engineered through emotional debate – had earnest intentions and achieved measurable progress, but substantial issues still persist.

Most notably, while the rich get richer several of its entities are failing and the appropriate economic model is not in place to remedy the situation. Additional financial resources are clearly needed, but from where those resources should originate is central to the dispute. The powers that be would like to cap or even retract compensation from its rank and file while the rank and file believes there should be a more equal or targeted distribution of revenue to help the struggling entities.

Separately, an appropriate level of compensation for the rank and file has been difficult at best to agree upon as leadership asserts the funding is not available for current levels of compensation let alone a raise. As a result, the failing entities either pay less or cut back on operational resources.

Due to these unresolved issues and others still unlisted a work stoppage has resulted, the consequences of which impact more than just the principle actors. In fact, the collateral damage from this dispute could exceed that done to the intended targets.

Does this situation sound familiar? It should, especially if you live in Chicago, because I’ve just described the Chicago Teachers Union strike.


Perspective Please

There is one critical difference between the Chicago Teachers Union strike and the NHL lockout, which also fits the above hypothetical. In Chicago the teachers went on strike. In the NHL the owners locked out the players. But both had to weigh the consequences of their actions and justify their resolve.  The comparison therefore offers some much needed perspective for NHL owners and Mr. Bettman who affected the lockout.

Labor stoppages are typically reserved for meaningful causes that have societal impacts like workplace safety, child labor laws, or equal compensation. The stakes in Chicago rise to these standards where the city’s public school teachers recently walked out of their classrooms and onto the picket line to protest reforms Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was attempting to implement. Thankfully for the students and their education, the teachers have since returned to their desks with an agreement in place.

The primary point of contention between the teachers and Mayor Emanuel was how to address failing schools. Teachers fought for more resources to be directed to poverty and crime-ridden areas where more than 80 percent of the students qualify for free meals. Mayor Emanuel wanted accountability in these same schools in order to improve the quality of education in his city. These are differences worthy of an impasse.

At the end of the day both were fighting for the future of Chicago’s children and thereby the future of Chicago itself.  Perhaps it was the consequential nature of the stakes that resulted in a relatively quick resolution to the Chicago strike as compared to NHL labor disputes which as we know can take seasons to resolve.

Is this why we’re locked out?

By comparison it makes the NHL look silly for its labor stoppage, especially after the latest round of negotiations failed to resolve the trivial, which is an extremely relative term in this comparison. As Elliot Friedman reported the two sides could not even reach an agreement on who should pay for “a) an extra trainer on the road and b) for each player to have his own hotel room.”

Gary Bettman
(Brad Penner-US PRESSWIRE)

That’s embarrassing and while these are not the core issues at cause for the lockout, their mere existence in negotiations questions the integrity of the league and the necessity of a labor stoppage whose consequences are more dire for those whose livelihoods depend on the league than they are the exactors of the lockout.

Striking for the future of education is an action justified by its cause. What cause do the owners have, beyond their bottom lines for which only they are accountable for, that justifies locking out their employees who, as Brooks Laich correctly stated, play “a kids game.”

Let’s leave the lockout and labor stoppages for issues of real critical import and get back to playing a game that makes more than enough money to go around… even to help out the failing markets and especially to support thousands of livelihoods that depend on games being played.

Now someone help me off of this horse.

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