February 28, 2011
It's sometimes hard to believe, but there's an entire world outside of the NBA. For instance, did you know that Libya is in the midst of a revolution? I thought that place was just a genus of crabs!
On the domestic front, the whole of Wisconsin is up in arms about Governor Scott Walker's attempt to strip the state's teachers' union of its collective bargaining rights, ostensibly to get the state out of debt. It's an important fight for not just Wisconsin teachers, but the entire cause of American labor.
So it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that the National Basketball Players Association has come out in support of the teachers' struggle in Wisconsin. Here is the entirety of Friday's press release:
"Last night's vote by the Wisconsin Assembly was an attempt to undermine organized labor and the men and women across the country who depend on their unions for a voice in the workplace. The NBPA proudly supports our brothers and sisters in Wisconsin and their stand for unequivocal collective bargaining rights." -- Billy Hunter, NBPA Executive Director
"Wisconsin public-sector workers tirelessly deliver services on a daily basis to millions of Wisconsin residents. The right of these hard-working men and women to organize and bargain collectively is fundamental. Wisconsin's workers deserve better than last night's vote. Today, our union stands proudly with our fellow union members throughout the state as they continue their fight." -- Keyon Dooling(notes), NBPA First Vice President, Milwaukee Bucks
At first glance, this show of solidarity might seem pretty ridiculous. After all, NBA players will fight the owners this summer to make many millions of dollars rather than many millions of dollars, whereas the loss of the Wisconsin teachers' collective bargaining rights effectively puts them at the mercy of the state. If a state-employed educator ever made the NBA's veteran minimum, then that person would soon after have to go back to the land of magical make-believe, because they would not exist.
But that doesn't mean that the NBA's union battle is somehow not serious. At any level of pay, employees gain more rights when unionized. That goes for millionaires as well as teachers who make $50k per year. When high-profile athletes support those in a much bigger union fight, it shows that all workers are in this fight together. That helps Mrs. Holstein in third-grade homeroom as well as Kobe Bryant(notes).
Maybe the Wisconsin teachers will return the favor in July. If David Stern starts hanging out with Gov. Walker, you'll know something is up.