News & Commentary

February 12, 2024

Morgan Sperry

Morgan Sperry is a student at Harvard Law School and also serves as OnLabor's Social Media Director.

In honor of last night’s Super Bowl, today’s News & Commentary is dedicated to the union and future-union workers who made the event happen.

Days before the Super Bowl, a coalition of unions including the Culinary Workers Union Local 226, AFL-CIO, UNITE HERE, and the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) joined forces to organize Allegiant Stadium’s non-union workers. At an organizing event last week, stadium workers indicated that they sought a union for better pay, health benefits, and working conditions at one of the highest-grossing venues in the nation. There are approximately 1,500 non-union workers at Allegiant, including cashiers, ushers, maintenance workers, and concession personnel.

The vitality of the NFL Players Association was on full display in Las Vegas, as the San Francisco 49ers appealed to the NFLPA to address an overly soft playing surface at their practice facility. NFLPA president JC Tretter indicated that surface conditions will be a key fight between the union and the NFL next season. Today, the NFL has 13 grass fields, which are associated with less severe injuries, and 17 turf fields. The union is pushing teams with turf fields to convert to grass, and demanding higher quality grass care across all stadiums in order to promote safe and consistent playing surfaces. (Most players prefer grass.)

In its annual pre-Super Bowl press conference, the NFL Players Association asserted that the Denver Broncos violated the collective bargaining agreement signed between the NFL and the NFLPA when the team threatened to bench quarterback Russell Wilson if he did not agree to adjust his contract. Ultimately, the team did bench Wilson—a strategic (and probably illegal) decision to avoid paying him a $37 million offseason bonus.

In addition to weighing in on how Russell Wilson was “mistreated,” NFLPA Executive Director Lloyd Howell also expressed a desire to make players shareholders in the league’s franchises. Last July, the NFL adopted a rule that prohibited giving equity in the franchise to players or other employees. 

Throughout the game (the seventh-longest in the history of the NFL), solidarity emanated from Super Bowl champ Travis Kelce’s box, where SAG-AFTRA members Taylor Swift and Blake Lively cheered on the Chiefs tight end. In September, Swift made waves for sidestepping studios and working with the union to distribute her Eras Tour concert film directly in AMC theaters, in compliance with SAG-AFTRA’s interim agreement. Blake Lively, for her part, donated $1 million to the actors’ union strike fund.

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