Category Archives: Labor

Cranky Calhoun and the Dirty Business of College Hoops

University of Connecticut men’s basketball coach Jim Calhoun has been all over the headlines recently regarding his remarks during a press conference last Sunday. The story goes that a blogger named Ken Krayeske was able to get a press pass that allowed him entrance into the coach’s post-game session with the media. Krayeske started to ask Calhoun a question regarding the coach being the highest paid state employee with a salary of $1.6 million (and UConn being a public university) in the midst of a $2 billion Connecticut state budget deficit, before Coach Calhoun interrupted him and…basically wigged the fuck out. Peep the video below:

Okay so it wasn’t so much of a wig out as it was Calhoun making some bad arguments (“It’s got nothing to do with state funds!”–Uh, it’s a public university, Coach, meaning it’s got a little something to do with state funds) and arrogantly displaying his sense of entitlement in regards to his wealth.

And then things got heated.

Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell called Calhoun’s rant an “embarrasing display,” and some Connecticut lawmakers want him reprimanded.

Calhoun got his 800th career win the other night with UConn’s win over Marquette, but the Marquette fans were ruthless, chanting “How much money? Not a dime!” during the game and calling Calhoun a “Greedy scumbag!” and “Greedy piece of trash!”

Many mainstream media outlets of course have sided with the Coach (the rich have to look out for their own, right?), as I heard commentators on ESPN defending Calhoun, citing how the men’s basketball program does bring in over $12 million to the University and a ton of exposure.

My problem with this rationale is that it overlooks the larger issue at play here, sports as a business, and might even distort Calhoun’s real position in the whole thing.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not defending Calhoun. He clearly revealed himself to be the arrogant, cranky, old rich white guy that he is. But in the realm of sports economics, the college hoops coaches are like “mid-level managers.” Calhoun’s taking in a salary that he bargained for and that the University was willing to pay him. The University is the real “owner” or the “CEO” of the college hoops corporation (that is also totally in bed with the state government even if it isn’t a public school).

The real injustice here is that the players are the labor force and they don’t get to see any of the money they bring in! Not a penny for ticket sales, not a penny for jerseys sold with their names on them, not a penny for anything.

And please, let’s skip all the “it’s not about the money, it’s about the love of the game” arguments. It’s definitely about money. Coaches are trying to get paid; players are trying to go pro and make as much cheese as they can while they are in a position to do so and while their bodies are able to hold up to the extreme stress; and universities and state governments are trying to rake in as much bread as they can.

Now, I’m not saying that college athletes should get paid for everything. I just get sick of hearing these sweeping moral judgments that people like to throw at players (the majority “coincidentally” being young people of color), the workers/labor force, for “lacking character” today because they go pro before graduating from school and are “greedy” and “only chasing the money.” If you saw your coach making millions and driving around in an Escalade while you work your ass off and don’t see a dime of that dough, wouldn’t you be trying to go pro too? I know I would. You could always get your degree later. However, you won’t always have the opportunity to maximize your athletic earning potential, as an athlete is always one snapped ACL away from an ended career.

So yeah, Calhoun’s a cranky, rich fuck, but the College Hoops establishment can often be a dirty business all around, and he’s only one small part of a much larger beast. It always helps me to look at sports today as a labor struggle, and this incident highlights again how labor, in this case the players, are getting shafted by management.

Bad BofA (& the return of The Cheddar Path)

This post can also be found on my other blog, The Cheddar Path. Although I haven’t posted on the Path for awhile, I have started the new year off by doing so and will try to do so in a more regular fashion for the 3 people out there who actually read this blog and then are so nice as to read another blog by yours truly. I have added a focus on managing one’s personal finances to The Cheddar Path as well, because I have discovered and believe that managing one’s finances in a healthy way is connected to the struggle for truly empowered, self-reliant communities. I don’t claim to be any kind of financial expert, but personal finance from a progressive perspective is quickly becoming a big interest of mine, especially in recession 2009 America, and I simply wish to share any useful tips I pick up along the way with others. Holla!

BofA, the Employee Free Choice Act & Credit Unions

Recently, after receiving $25 billion in federal bailout funds, Bank of America hosted a meeting with members of the business community and conservative activists to discuss sending “large contributions” to groups trying to defeat the government’s proposed Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for workers to join unions. So, Bank of America is using our tax dollars to stop a bill that would help grow the middle class and put more money in the pockets of hard working Americans? Sounds pretty shady to me.

Think what you want about labor unions, but the fact is that across the board, from industry to industry, union job wages are on average 15% higher than non union wages, as well as being beneficial for a host of other reasons.

It’s hearing about stories like these that really make me want to stop supporting the huge commercial banks. I currently bank with one of them, but am strongly considering moving my money into a credit union or community bank, which is much more beneficial to my local economy. MSN has a great article laying out all the benefits of going with a credit union.

Bailout (for some) Economics

(UPDATE: As of 12/19/08, the Bush Administration has approved a bailout for the auto industry, after an earlier bailout proposal was blocked by the Senate)

I’ve been slow with the posts lately, so I’ll try to play catch-up by giving some end of year thoughts on the economy.

In the words of Young Jeezy: “It’s a recession, everbody broke!”

Devastating numbers of people and families are losing their homes and jobs, and the outlook for the foreseeable future is not bright. I don’t want to sensationalize the situation more than the media already has, but I think we’re going to start seeing some really sad, ugly things happening to more and more people; things like having to choose between paying for food or paying for health care, and ultimately just scrapping the idea of receiving any medical attention at all. That lack of health care means people are going to die, and the Wall Street financial types and the politicians they’re in bed with are going to have a lot more blood on their hands.

The fact that the government is willing to give the Wall Street finance industry a $700 billion bailout with tax payer money but, as of yet, isn’t willing to give the US auto industry a $15 billion bailout I think is a blatant slap in the face to organized labor. The presence of labor unions in the auto industry is still strong, and if you listened to all the subtle and not so subtle anti-union rhetoric coming from the politicians amidst the auto industry bailout debate, it’s pretty clear that big business (who hates organized labor for a variety of reasons summarized here) owns the government and they want to seize on any opportunity they can to deal labor unions a crushing blow. And with that, more working families will continue to suffer. Disgusting.

Looking around at all this madness has made me an even stronger proponent of community-based economics. Folks like Michael Shuman have an idea of how we can strengthen our local economies to prevent some of the stuff that we are seeing now, and I think we owe it to ourselves to try to get educated about our own personal finances and our communities’ collective financial health.


Gene Upshaw

I’ve been spending way too much time micromanaging my fantasy football team lately, and one cool thing that anyone who’s been watching the games probably noticed is the fact that the league is honoring former Oakland Raider Gene Upshaw, who passed away about a month ago now, on 8/20/08. Every player will be wearing either a patch on their jersey or a decal on their helmets with his initials “GU” and number 63.

On top of being a Hall of Fame player, what’s interesting about Upshaw is that he was the director of the National Football League Player’s Association (NFLPA), the labor union that represents the players in the NFL, until his death.

Dave Zirin has really gotten me to look at professional sports as a labor struggle, with the athletes as labor and the billionaire team owners as management, so I appreciate Gene Upshaw not only for repping the city of Oakland but also for being such an active member of the union, and the labor struggle within the world of pro-football. RIP.

The Employee Free Choice Act

A recent SleptOn Magazine article states that the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA):

“Would probably change Americans’ lives more than any legislation since the New Deal brought us Social Security. The political influence of millions of new union members would also bring us closer to such basic reforms as universal health care. It’s all long overdue. ”

EFCA would remove many of the barriers to joining a union that have been put in place today by a Republican administration and corporate America, and Obama has pledged support should he become President. Check out American Rights at Work to find out more about the bill.

Another Total Recall?

Awwww shiet. California’s powerful prison gaurds’ union has initiated procedures to push for a recall of Governor Arnold. Their reasoning is that his “catastrophic leadership failings have left the state in far worse shape than before his election.” Cali and its Governor ain’t looking so hot these days, being $17.2 billion in the hole and getting a lot of shit for lowering state workers’ pay from upwards of $7.50 an hour to the federal minimum wage of $6.55/hr. Never thought I would be a fan of the prison gaurds’ union, but politics breeds strange bedfellows apparently, so let’s get it on! Keep an eye on this one.

The Labor Day List 2008

Hope everyone had a great Labor Day weekend.

Once upon a time, I interned at a dope organization called American Rights At Work (ARAW). Every Labor Day, ARAW puts out an awesome list of ten corporations that are practicing “high road” capitalism. Basically this means that they aren’t concerned with just the bottom line of maximizing profits, but take a broader approach to what profit is, meaning that they support their workers’ right to form or join a union, provide living wages and staff retention strategies, maintain positive relationships with the broader community, etc. Check out the 2008 list, and also look back on the lists from previous years as well (they’ve been doing this for four years now).

Also, peep the TV ad they just released about the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which would level the playing field in favor of workers and remove a lot of the barriers that currently exist to keep workers from forming or joining labor unions. If elected, Obama has pledged support for this bill.