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Effort to unionize cheerleaders could be coming

Cheerleaders Getty Images

As more and more members of more and more NFL cheerleading squads take a stand against alleged wage violations, the effort could soon go to the next level.

A former member of the Buffalo Jills tells Andrea Kremer of HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel that the league’s cheerleading squads soon may attempt to unionize.

“We’re looking into possibly developing some type of union for girls going forward,” the former Jills cheerleader named Maria tells Kremer in an interview that debuts on June 24 at 10:00 p.m. ET.  “So we’re not doing this to benefit ourselves.  We’re, you know, done with cheering.  This is for the future of the team, the future of these girls.”

While it’s debatable whether having a union would help, having the threat of a union along with enough employees who are willing to pursue litigation could prompt all teams to treat the cheerleaders fairly and legally. The Bills, Raiders, Bengals, Buccaneers, and Jets currently face allegations of wage violations.

To date, some teams have preyed on the reality that, given the competitive nature of the job, the candidates will suffer a variety of indignities — including getting paid less than minimum wage or not getting paid at all.

“[D]oes it make it right?” a former Raiderette named Lacy said regarding the fact that many others happily would tolerate those conditions. “Tons of people would love to be a reporter.  Does that mean you don’t deserve to be paid for your talent, for your time, for your hard work?”

The NFL continues to decline to address the situation, and for good reason. In an era where the NFL attracts female fans by allowing the color pink to infiltrate in October the otherwise sacrosanct NFL uniform, evidence that female employees are being exploited and mistreated could alienate members of their gender.

Regardless of gender, it’s wrong to take advantage of people who would do a job for free if they had to. Whether through litigation, legislation, or unionization, the time has come for change. The only question is whether the change will happen before the situation becomes an embarrassment for the NFL.

It’s probably already too late for that.

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58 Responses to “Effort to unionize cheerleaders could be coming”
  1. thehawg says: Jun 21, 2014 6:10 PM

    Teams could just not have cheerleaders.

  2. philyeagles5 says: Jun 21, 2014 6:11 PM

    If you don’t wanna pay them get rid of them.

  3. pnut87 says: Jun 21, 2014 6:16 PM

    Honestly. Never watched a football game for the cheerleaders. Never thought they brought anything to the game. Yeah, they look nice, but again, Im not looking at yhem during a game. And frankly, if theyre suppoaed to rile up the crowd for the home team, they dont do that well…

  4. sdboltaction says: Jun 21, 2014 6:21 PM

    I don’t care about the cheer leaders either, but they’re actually more utilized for marketing outside of the stadium than anything. I believe they do put in their work with promotional stuff and the dance practices etc, but again, if you don’t want to treat them with normal wage respect, just get rid of them.

  5. 34defense2014 says: Jun 21, 2014 6:24 PM

    Just pay them a fair salary? Let them have a Union? Benefits, Health insurance? What’s the big deal? The NFL makes billions! Do right by your employees? It’s Not that difficult to figure out here!

  6. 34defense2014 says: Jun 21, 2014 6:26 PM

    Good for them!!!

  7. pillowporkers says: Jun 21, 2014 6:27 PM

    Not a big union guy, but if some of the stories reported are true, I don’t blame them for trying. However, this will be an easy union to break because they are unnecessary to the main product. They don’t have much leverage here.

  8. luz56 says: Jun 21, 2014 6:30 PM

    Not sure what value they bring to the game…. Played in many games , watched many games and they are a distraction good bad or indifferent

  9. clbrwns says: Jun 21, 2014 6:33 PM

    Get rid of them. Bring back the dog that catches the frisbee. He always looked happy.

  10. footballfan14 says: Jun 21, 2014 6:34 PM

    I agree here Mike. They need to treat them fairly if they are going to have them. They should get paid minimum wage and should be treated like humans.

    I also agree they don’t need to form a union. A union would only benefit those at the head of it and the lawyers, and Jill says she isn’t doing this for herself but she sure sounds like she would want to head the union and she would draw a salary. In essence, it sounds like she wants back in the game and can’t be a cheerleader so this is her way to make even more money than the girls she wants to represent.

    From what I’m hearing it sounds like it is more than a hobby type thing and a part-time job. There definitely needs to be some tweaking but if they form a union, I would drop cheerleaders because they don’t make the NFL any additional money so there is no slice of pie that they have a part to. I think college athletes are more worthy of having a union because at least they generate income for their employers. I like having the cheerleaders but I don’t see them generating any income? They would purely bleed some from owners and probably would not give the bonuses and raises it did previously to those personnel who are directly responsible for the team’s success (like scouts, coaches, office staff, etc.).

    If I were NFL teams, I would not have cheerleaders at all, unless they signed a waiver and were willing to volunteer their time only to be there on Sundays and maybe practice a couple hours once a week, as a hobby.

  11. thegreatgabbert says: Jun 21, 2014 6:46 PM

    Cheerleaders prefer to use the term “synchronize” rather than “unionize”. Or even “harmonize”.

  12. toad8572 says: Jun 21, 2014 6:52 PM

    Simple supply and demand…

    The owners obviously don’t feel they’re a requirement for success.

    Don’t like the terms of employment? Don’t take the job.

  13. zeke2517 says: Jun 21, 2014 7:12 PM

    I don’t see why the multibillion dollar organizations can’t just pay ten of fifteen chicks a fair wage.

    If you want something, pay for it.

  14. britishraven says: Jun 21, 2014 7:15 PM

    NFL should pay them or get rid of them.

    It’s inexcusable that they have playing staff payrolls of ~$125million + god knows how much on coaching staff but can’t even pay minimum wage to cheerleaders.

  15. detroit09 says: Jun 21, 2014 7:19 PM

    Toad
    Bottom line. It is a job and as such requires fair compensation. Would you say that about any other line of work?
    Would you accept that from your employer?
    Either compensate them or recruit volunteers.

  16. corky2141 says: Jun 21, 2014 7:19 PM

    They are not a necessity to the game and getting a union would probably only hurt them more than help considering all the turnover and such, butt to believe they don’t make money for these teams is ridiculous. They sell plenty of overpriced calendars with them in bikinis, they get people to buy tickets to team ran events in which people buy merchandise for them to sign and take pics with them. They model the ladies merchandise that the team sells, as well as “cheerleader” outfits for the kids(what they wear & what they sell are completely different), and they do a lot of P.R. work. Sure they don’t bring in big bucks, butt they do help in those secondary areas.

  17. pinchekeith says: Jun 21, 2014 7:25 PM

    “it’s wrong to take advantage of people who would do a job for free if they had to.”

    That’s not taking advantage of anyone.

    “Whether through litigation, legislation, or unionization, the time has come for change.”

    Speak for yourself.

  18. 34defense2014 says: Jun 21, 2014 7:33 PM

    Any Union is a good Union!! I would never work for a non-Union Company! But I guess there what happens when one has been in a Union for 23 years? I know one thing! If my place of employment where not Unionized! A lot of good people would had lost there jobs over power hunger Politicians!! Working in the Health field where 95% of the Employees are Women. I’ve seen first just how Women can be mistreated! By Doctors, Patience and other Male Nurses!! Your right!! If the NFL doesn’t want to pay them? The NFL shouldn’t hire them!! If the NFL doesn’t want them to have a Union then don’t have Cheerleaders! NFL is always there way or the highway!! Those girls work hard!! They have ridged schedule! They deserve much more!!

  19. hay1111 says: Jun 21, 2014 7:41 PM

    Go in the stands and work for tips, they know how to get them.

  20. trapshoot says: Jun 21, 2014 7:44 PM

    Never cared for unions, still don’t. But it may be the only way they’ll get the pay they want. ….. Bigger question: why have cheerleaders at all?

  21. craigkintexas says: Jun 21, 2014 7:48 PM

    Socialism never lasts. That’s why union membership has been on a steady decline for years.

  22. avbanig33 says: Jun 21, 2014 8:03 PM

    Good. Every worker deserves a union and workers wouldn’t have any benefits or vacations at all if it was not for the unions who got those things accomplished last century.

    Every worker should be thankful for unions and should want to be in one.

  23. klutch14u says: Jun 21, 2014 8:05 PM

    Yep, time for them to go. I’ve always thought of the cheerleaders as more of a way to get THEMSELVES publicity to go on to do modeling/acting/dancing/molesting students, etc….

    Once a union gets involved they’ll just bleed them dry and try to make it a “career”. Time for them to go as far as I’m concerned.

  24. contra74isloosbuthole says: Jun 21, 2014 8:06 PM

    Let’s be real here. These r the leftovers and the last chance these women have if becoming trophy wives. They are compensated fine in other ways.

  25. thestrategyexpert says: Jun 21, 2014 8:06 PM

    An owner that employs cheerleaders should look for that as an opportunity to be better than other teams to further solidify why they are the best above all franchises. Shame on you if you don’t do it right and find a way to create problems.

  26. jagsfanugh says: Jun 21, 2014 8:16 PM

    Good luck, They are not necessary and if want more then …do like the rest of us and get a job.

  27. queenofbigtime says: Jun 21, 2014 8:26 PM

    As a former NFL cheerleader (’70s), we did it for the love of the game and performing. We received free parking, two free tickets and never complained.

  28. delebar says: Jun 21, 2014 8:32 PM

    I strongly oppose the uninionization of cheeleaders! Knowing unions, their first demand will probably being paid minimum wage. And that money comes right out of the business owners’ pockets. And that will cost jobs!

  29. bearclaw69 says: Jun 21, 2014 8:41 PM

    You know who needs to unionize? The FANS. That way we could demand reasonable ticket prices, fair concession prices and intelligent sports writers.

  30. bnwillard says: Jun 21, 2014 9:04 PM

    I lived next door to an NFL Cheerleader. She had a great real job, performed at the 8 home games a year, made a handful of public appearances, visited some sick children, etc..and had a great time. That was it. She did it for two seasons.

    Not sure that necessitates a Union, or health insurance, or 401k plans, or pay really – beyond a small stipend.

  31. britishraven says: Jun 21, 2014 9:08 PM

    I’m assuming that everyone decrying union’s would prefer a world with no paid holiday, no sick pay, no insurance cover, no safety legislation and workplace fatalities an everyday occurrence?

  32. luz56 says: Jun 21, 2014 9:37 PM

    Not sure how this turned into a huge union/ socialism issue….. If you talk about capitalism and the way of life here then you have a choice as to what you want to do and either charge or work for it accordingly…

    A form of socialism is good when you talk education and healthcare where I believe it should not be for profit

    My original point was I feel cheerleaders don’t add much to the entertainment value if the game but if you are a cheerleader and understand the rules before hand don’t complain!

  33. bobnelsonjr says: Jun 21, 2014 9:42 PM

    The Steelers and Packers do fine without cheerleaders.

    1) They don’t have to pay anyone to cheer for their teams.

    2) Their fans are knowledgeable enough to know when to cheer and when to be quiet without being lead.

    3) Cheerleaders get in the way and block the view of some of the fans where ever they are in the stadium.

    Good franchises don’t need cheerleaders for marketing or any other purpose.

  34. justatrophy says: Jun 21, 2014 10:17 PM

    Seriously, it’s pretty obvious that most of these “cheerleaders” are in it for the free marketing/networking/likes provided through the NFL advertising train. It’s no wonder that anyone with a advertising/communication degree would do it for free.

    It is curious however that these retired cheerleaders are trying to save the world one cheerleader at a time now that they are no longer associated with the league.

  35. papajack1259 says: Jun 21, 2014 10:27 PM

    They will be millionaires too, what needs to occur is us fans need a union!

  36. jchuber says: Jun 21, 2014 10:33 PM

    Good ole NFL. Their moto is to cheat everyone possible, while denying any responsibility.
    yup no concusions here
    or dimentia

    pay worthless commissioner 44 million, and whole team has salary cap of 130 million, but
    can’t even pay cheerleaders minimum wage.

    Yup, pure Greed, while their lap dog lectures about protection NFL image. My question is what image?????

  37. thetigerleg says: Jun 21, 2014 10:39 PM

    Okay. Let’s review this one more time. Cheerleaders are not employees of NFL teams. They are hired by talent agencies that contract them to the team. The indignities are done by the talent agents. Their pay is skimmed by the talent agents. They are forced to buy their unis from the talent agents at inflated prices.

    They are no different than parking lot personnel, vendors, ushers and even the local announcers who might work at the games but are not employees of the team. The only reason the teams are included in the lawsuits is because of two words – Deep Pockets.

    The reporting on this story is so poor and slanted.

  38. qdog112 says: Jun 21, 2014 10:43 PM

    Only the brainwashed think workers are better of without collective bargaining.

    Every benefit you have at work, you have because of the effect of unionization. Starting with the 40 hr, week and time and 1/2 overtime pay.

    So you don’t like unions or women? Wow … need to get out more.

  39. revskip says: Jun 21, 2014 11:38 PM

    Giants don’t have cheerleaders so it isn’t really an issue for our team but these gals should definitely unionize. Despite the folks who like to demonize unions, very few employers can be trusted to do the right thing by their employees without the employees being able to stand as a united front which is exactly what a union does.

    Unions are responsible for the 8 hour workday and mandatory overtime, for ending child labor in factories, for paid sick leave, maternity leave, healthcare for employees, workers compensation benefits, etc. If you have ever taken advantage of any of those things you owe them to unions.

  40. hrjx says: Jun 21, 2014 11:41 PM

    People stopped watching them circa 1996 when Al Gore created the internet. Cut them and knock a dollar off my parking pass please.

  41. achillesofwooters says: Jun 21, 2014 11:50 PM

    For all the pro union snobs, get over yourselves. Unions had a positive effect on working conditions 100 years ago when there were almost no employment laws, but outlived their usefulness decades ago. Unions now serve only to protect jobs that are obsolete, employees who would be fired because of their incompetence, or to push the company they work for to the brink of bankruptcy. The cheerleaders are paid what they are because that is the economic value of their jobs. If they unionize those jobs will disappear before the ink is dry on the union charter.

  42. osiris33 says: Jun 22, 2014 12:16 AM

    I think they should just hire strippers for cheerleaders and pay them $20 bucks a dance.

  43. witchrunner says: Jun 22, 2014 12:49 AM

    Gut feeling is that the cheerleaders are going to unionize themselves out of a job.

    In high school you have the athletes and cheerleaders (for some sports). All volunteer. Should they all get paid? After all, they promote their schools without compensation. Then you’ve got colleges where the same thing happens. Of course, you’ve got a pending court case about unionization. If the athletes win, then it follows that all students who participate in activities, including drama, music, math, heck, even grade school spelling bee students, should be paid for their efforts.

    Obviously, the teams should decide that if they want cheerleaders and the cheerleaders want to be paid, then they should follow the law. But, does the law ban voluntary cheerleaders or something other than a strict wage, deal? If they are paid to perform at games, should they be paid to practice? What if they are “independent contractors?”

    As people have known throughout time, if there is a law, there is a way around the law. Not being a cheerleader (having always preferred to participate in a sport than just cheer it on), I have no idea whether cheerleaders always expect to get paid. I doubt. There are tons of sports and activities where people don’t get paid, but provide economic value to the promoters. Should those who participate in the NYC Marathon get paid instead of paying to run it? After all, without them, there would be nothing to promote and no money to be made by the promoters. Should they then be paid for their hours of training? Don’t laugh, after all, when you think about it, it’s what the cheerleaders are seeking. Personally, I think the cheerleaders are more like me, just happy to be a part of it without the compensation. Who thinks that the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders would have problems filling the ranks if they weren’t paid a dime?

  44. JSpicoli says: Jun 22, 2014 2:04 AM

    Get rid of them

  45. kmgpop says: Jun 22, 2014 7:05 AM

    From what I have read about this issue, it’s not only wages, but a lot of these women have to supply their own make-up and other items to prepare themselves on Sunday. I think some teams require the cheerleaders to purchase their own uniforms.

    I agree that forming a union will only benefit union leadership, and not the rank and file. Many of these ladies have full-time professions, so health insurance and pensions aren’t as big of a concern.
    NFL… Just be fair to someone for once!

  46. factman1000 says: Jun 22, 2014 7:54 AM

    Who is holding the gun to their heads making them become cheerleaders? If they don’t like the pay, don’t apply to work there.

  47. joetoronto says: Jun 22, 2014 8:11 AM

    This simply means that soon, there will be no more cheerleaders.

    Wat to go, union. SMH.

  48. tjsbmurphy says: Jun 22, 2014 8:13 AM

    Many of the women who cheer use the experience as a platform for modeling careers, etc… No one comes to a game to watch them, so it is likely this effort will backfire. As far as the comments on unions in general, the debate is over and big labor has lost. The biggest union is the government workers union, and most are members because they have to be…percentage of workers in unions continues to decline. Until they stop blaming management and the GOP and start looking in the mirror, the trend will continue.

  49. elliottcovert says: Jun 22, 2014 9:17 AM

    That would probably be the most attractive union by a country mile

  50. melikefootball says: Jun 22, 2014 9:38 AM

    Go union, then all the equal right groups will want equal opportunity hiring, get some chunky mommas out there, get some Redskins out there, lets offend everyone while were at it.

  51. radar8 says: Jun 22, 2014 11:05 AM

    Good for them. I hope that they do unionize.

    Unions are demonized in the US. It’s been a many-decades long attack by corporate interests. We have been led to believe that unions are the reason for many government and corporate financial woes. It’s all a lie.

    The corporations have convinced the public that getting paid less is good. That having pensions is bad. The CEOs and top execs have benefitted from the lack of unions. It’s easier to ship jobs overseas without unions. IT’s cheaper to bring in H1B foreigners instead of hiring US engineers. Corporations have paid-off politicians to allow them to ship our middle-class overseas.

    Unions are good for workers. Without unions, the corporations tend to control government and tilt the playing field in their favor and against workers.

  52. qdog112 says: Jun 22, 2014 11:06 AM

    Once the 1% gets you to vote against your own self interest … they know they got you.

    The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was to convince the world he didn’t exist …

    Like wealthy people telling you that increased wages and better work conditions are bad things.

  53. JSpicoli says: Jun 22, 2014 11:38 AM

    So many folks on here with warped opinions of unions and their usefulness. Nothing to an extreme. Unions are what are killing your city’s budget. Things need to come back to the working for a living side of the scale.

    At least they all feel like heroes, and that they are on the ape-logic-correct side of the argument. No Cheerleader left behind!

  54. kmgpop says: Jun 22, 2014 12:12 PM

    The call for unionization will only eliminate cheerleaders altogether. Wal Mart did away with meat cutters in their stores years ago when a handful of them wanted to join a union. The absence or presence of cheerleaders does not dictate whether I attend a game or not. The insane prices for tickets, parking, food and drinks has decided the issue for me.

  55. tsimpson50 says: Jun 22, 2014 1:45 PM

    I’ve always been a fan of the Steelers cheerleaders….oh wait .. They don’t have them …. Must be why I like them… 99% of the fans can’t see them anyways… Probably the same ones who wouldn’t care if they were gone.

  56. simonator917 says: Jun 22, 2014 11:16 PM

    Socialism never lasts. That’s why union membership has been on a steady decline for years.
    ==========
    Unionization isn’t socialism, idiot. It’s for the purpose of collective bargaining. The players formed a union. Does that make them socialists!

  57. agentfreak82 says: Jun 23, 2014 5:50 AM

    What a joke! Ditch them all!

  58. babygaga19 says: Jun 23, 2014 9:27 PM

    I have unionized many cheerleaders.

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