(David Mansdoerfer) – With the NBA set to join the NFL in shutting down operations tonight due to the expiration of their collective bargaining agreements, we are again reminded of how disconnected the CBA process is from reality.
Now, to make it clear, the NFL and NBA are vastly different organizations than the American Federation of Teachers and Service Employees International Union. Yet, when it comes to the negotiating table, each organization is equally capable of putting blinders on and protecting the interests of their clients – and only their clients.
In the case of the NFL and NBA, we have the titans of industry with limitless pocketbooks – the owners, pitted against their seven figure salary employees – the players. Lost in the mix, however, is the cast that supports the sporting industry.
Outside of the 52 players on a NFL roster, or the 15 guys on a NBA bench, you have the thousands of people that depend on these industries – including people who work in clothing apparel, bars and restaurants, and ticket sales. Who sticks up for these people during the negotiation over whether a ten million dollar contract can be four or five years or how much a 19 year old can make in his first contract?
Collective bargaining, in and of itself, is defined as the negotiation process between employers and the representatives of a group of employees aimed at regulating the work environment. However, during this process, groups that aren’t directly involved in the employment process are left out in the cold.
In the case of the NFL and NBA, people that fall into this category include those who rely on this industry for employment. In the case of teacher CBA contracts, however, the people who are left out in the cold are the very students teachers are there to serve.
What’s different between these two scenarios, however, is that while the selfishness of the 20 year old with a seven figure contract and the stinginess of the multimillion dollar owner is set to destroy thousands of jobs at a time when unemployment is nearly ten percent, they are located in the private sector and the risk of failure is placed entirely on the owner and league.
Teacher unions, who represent teachers during the CBA process, are negotiating at the expense of the education system while bearing little to no burden if a school or child fails. Furthermore, these same unions, who are funded primarily via tax money, are negotiating with the very people that they help to elect. In 2009, AFT spent nearly $18 million on political activates and lobbying while the National Education Association spent nearly $50 million.
Simply put, teacher unions are stacking the deck with politicians who believe that dollar per dollar spending directly increases student achievement – which has never been proven. Additionally, by paying to elect certain officials, teachers unions are able to negotiate higher pensions and seniority benefits, while overhead costs and accountability are not even allowed at the discussion table.
So, the big question is, what does the highly publicized lockout and CBA process of the NFL and NBA show us?
In simple terms, it shows on a larger scale that the CBA process is intended to protect the interests of the people at the discussion table. All those who are left on the outside – better luck next time.
(Mr. Mansdoerfer is the Director of Federal for Citizen Outreach)