Politics Posts by Subject

Union, union, union

Is there a better, more apparent argument for a return of collective bargaining and trade unionism as a core value in American life than the current NFL season?  I say this as a Ravens fan — and a secondary supporter of the Saints.  Have there been games played in which these scab refs haven’t butchered it at key points?  The season is fast becoming an irrelevant measure of anything.

And I say that having banked all the emotional equity from last night’s field goal.

Seriously.  It pays to go with the union label.


  • One of the things I like about David Simon is his opinions are informed and he often doesn’t accept something just because people or the media are saying it. Unfortunately in this case he bought into something without any evidence of support. If ESPN or other media reported on the blown calls of the regular referees like they did the replacement referees then everyone would be calling for the regular refs to go. From the games I watched, yes the regular refs were better than the replacement refs, but the constant media stories about every mistake as if the regular refs didn’t blow calls all the time were annoying to say the least.
    As a Rams fan I’ll forgo complaining about the poor officiating in Superbowl 36, but I will point out that the refs let the game end with 2 seconds on the clock. I’m sure if the replacement refs called the game with 2 seconds on the clock, that would just be glossed over.

  • Absolutely agree. I am a unionist through and through. In New Zealand the union movement was weakened by right wing politicos espousing the rise in job creation via low wage legislation and removal of workers rights to collectively bargain. The sound bites from the politicians and the media represented unions as overpaid bludgers. ‘Middle New Zealand’ believed and still do this anti union ideology. Who else fights for workers rights? One must never forget that without unions workers safety would still be an afterthought, workers minimum wage and hours would still be abhorrent and children would still be chimney sweeps!

  • I have a few issues with unions, but this is the biggest: About a decade ago, my good friend from college got a job with the Commonwealth of PA which was part of the local AFSCME chapter (33 if memory serves). Fresh out of school, with student loan debt and 4 hours from home, she was excited for her first job.

    Until the union went on strike four months later.

    With no savings (used it to supplment college loans) and not able to get another job as she wasn’t sure when strike would end, she crossed and went to work. She was ostracized by her employees and transferred 2 months after the strike ended.

    How does that help her or anyone in her position?

    • I have none of your issues with unions. I believe that the rise of collective bargaining was one of the elements that created sufficient tension for upward economic mobility in the 20th Century and helped to transform the American laboring classes into the American middle class — the greatest consumer-based economic engine the world had ever seen. It is no coincidence that this transformation followed directly from the rise of unions and collective bargaining. Just as it is no coincidence that the buying power of the American family and rates of poverty are at their worst in right to work states around the country. Just as it is no coincidence that with the general decline in labor, wages and economic healthy of the American middle class has actually declined over the last decade, while the wealth of the top percent of Americans has dramatically increased.

      Solidarity and seniority are the predicates by which unionism and collective bargaining work.

      Your friend was a scab. She crossed a picket line, violating the sanctity of the collective bargaining process. She deserved to be ostracized. I’m sorry, but that’s the way it is. I never crossed a picket line — either by my own union or by another union — in my life. I never will.

      Without unionism, capitalism is a race to the bottom. It was so before the rise of collective bargaining and it will be so after.

    • So my friend was supposed to starve and possibly lose her home waiting for a new deal? In my corner of the nation, the folks I know in unions tell me their local chapter supports candidates they don’t like, often with a portion of their dues. How is that fair?

      • Starve? STARVE? Hyperbole much?

        Your friend sought work at a business in which the labor force was represented collectively. She was supposed to honor that collective, bargaining from a position of strength with her fellow workers and joining them in any job action that the majority of those workers approved. That is how collective bargaining works. And that is what created the American middle class in the last century, making us the great economic engine we once were.

        Instead, your friend behaved without honor. And you reveal an empty space in your own communal ethos when you defend her. Sorry. A scab is a scab is a scab. And I believe in union and will never cross a line for as long as I live.

        • 1) Yes, it may be hyperbole, but with no income, no savings (having been depleted for college) had the strike been prolonged and she unable to find new work, who knows.

          2) She didn’t actively seek work in a union shop, as it were, they were the ones hiring in the area she was in and in the field she graduated from.

          • She and you have many notable excuses for why she crossed a picket line of her fellow workers and brother and sister unionists. I’m sure that if all of her other needs were met and if she were in some other circumstance she might have found the integrity not to be a scab. But she was a scab.

            That is the fundamental here. She deserved the contempt of fellow workers. I know she has mine.

            • Mr. Simon, I absolutely understand that as a union member past and present what she did was something worthy of your contempt.

              I liken this to the abortion debate. You’re not going to convince someone completely against abortion that it the other side feels it should be okay if the mother’s life is in danger or the pregnancy is a result of rape.

              • I can’t accept the analogy.

                There is a moral argument to be made against abortion, just as their is a moral argument to be made for a human being having complete control over her body to address her own health issues. Those issues are in conflict and a moral argument can result based on a philosophical dispute about when one believes that life begins.

                Collective bargaining is not analogous. It is not a “moral” question at all. It is an economic strategy and one that has been employed by guilds going back to the Middle Ages in Europe. If it works and achieves the goals of its members, then it works. If it fails to work in certain instances, then it is a strategic failure. Just as capital’s resistance to collective bargain is a strategic imperative.

                Your friend was labor, not management. She joined a union shop and then did not have the ethical fortitude to stand with her fellow workers — a majority of whom had clearly voted to bargain collectively and share the risks and rewards of such, and they were engaged in a job action when she selfishly elected to betray them for her own pesonal benefit.

                Your analogy is embarrassing. Leave this be. It’s not that we don’t agree because there are two sides to this, it’s that you don’t understand collective bargaining and the collective responsibility on which it is predicated.

                • No, I do not. I am not part of a union and never have been.

                  While it’s apparent nothing can be gained from going forward, the first two sentences of your last paragraph can be construed as condescension. I don’t think there’s a need to go to that point.

                  I am open to the positive contributions unions can make in today’s world. I don’t see them, especially in public unions. Rather than (appear to) talk down, why not point me in a direction where I can read or watch and possibly learn? I am open to that.

                  • Would agree about the purposelessness of proceeding here. You are not arguing any reality, but merely your idiosyncratic distaste in unions.

                    I would point you to any history that details what working conditions were like, how wages were limited, and how little discretionary income American workers had before the rise of collective bargaining in this country. Begin with any book on, say, the Haymarket. That would be a fine starting place. May 1 is coming up; that would be a fine point of historical departure for your reading journey.

                    The market left to its own devices will not only be indifferent to the economic health of the American worker, but will actively endeavor to destroy the very engine that drives the American economic — a consumer class with vast discretionary income that created the purchasing engine that made our economy the greatest the world had seen. Paying workers more than they need to survive doesn’t harm American business — it creates the demand that grows American business. Doing so worldwide is the only long-term solution, given the reality of globalization. And yet, the market itself can only see labor as a cost.

                    Collective bargaining in the 20th Century was the added element that transformed our economy and society. Your distaste for it may gratify some ideology or scratch some personal itch, but it isn’t actually rooted in the economic history of the United States.

                • And for the record, unions did have a big part to play in this country ascension in the 20th century. That I know. But lately, all they are arms for the Democrats. And join browncafe.com and you will see this with the UPS union. It’s on the message boards. That’s the last I plan on saying on this subject and I look fiorward to some areas where I can read about contemporary relevance of unions.

                  • Jason,

                    I have to tell you that you seem to have absolutely no handle on the actual facts. The greatest rise in the purchasing power and economic strength of the American working man and the American family — indeed the rise of the American consumer class as the great spending engine that drove the world’s largest economic — corresponds precisely to the rise of collective bargaining in America. In the thirty year decline of unions since Ronald Reagan broke the PATCO strike, the purchasing power of the American family has actually declined.

                    The contemporary relevance is precisely this: As unions are rendered less relevant, as collective bargaining declines as a force to operate in create tension with capital, the economic health of every American will decline. It is a race to the bottom. Not a single fact — other than your distaste of unions and your unrelenting defense of the selfish and self-centered over the collectivist and communal — is with you.

              • mate do you enjoy the 40 hour week? do you enjoy the 2 day weekend? do you enjoy paid holidays? do you enjoy paid public holidays? do you enjoy paid sick leave? Do you enjoy workplace safety laws that stop your workplace from becoming a potential death trap?

                None of these things were handed down by benevolent corporate masters, all of these were hard won by people on picket lines and people being unprepared to cross picket lines to their own economic disadvantage because they believed there was something worth fighting for, for the benefit not just of themselves, but for the people who came after them too

                I dont mean to pile on, but this stuff is too importants

  • I think you’re carrying water on this one, Mr. Simon. Either that or you’re a little blinded by your ideals and past union membership to recognize what the American unions have become: exclusive social clubs for a tiny tiny number of blue collar workers. I mean, you dedicated an entire season of The Wire to the corruption and cronyistic dynamics that are in play in what was ostensibly the International Longshoreman’s Association. Shit, about a year after that season aired the ILA’s international vice-president and a ton of other higher-ups in that union were indicted on a slew of charges ranging from extortion to perjury to embezzlement of union funds.

    The construction trade unions aren’t much better.

    I’m a non-union electrician, or a “scab” in your eyes that doesn’t deserve a job, I guess. I applied to two separate IBEW locals in my area five fucking years in a row and my application got denied every time for no particular reason. The final year I applied they told me that I had too much training and experience working non-union for me to “unlearn” it all and go through their apprenticeship – learn to do things their way. Well if that was the case why the fuck didn’t they accept me the first year I applied? Because unless you’re related to somebody, have some kind of inside connection, or are a minority – you’re fucked, you ain’t getting in. It is not a merit based system; it focuses strictly on nepotism and cronysim. Or in the case of the Philly trade unions, your surname begins with an O or an Mc or some other Irish prefix – that’s another dynamic that you conveniently left out of that season of The Wire: that the majority of these union guys in the Northeast are more racist than Mississippi cotton farmers, and the only reason they let minorities in is because they’re forced to by various local and state laws. But that ugly truth would’ve conflicted with your goal of painting the unions as champions of the working class, black and white workers standing together in solidarity against the evil capitalists.

    I”ve had the tires of my work truck slashed driving into the city to do jobs, I’ve had union guys come out and try to intimidate me. They said basically the same thing you do in these comments: I’m a scab. What am I supposed to do, go work the fucking fryer at McDonalds so these poor vulnerable union guys can have a job? Gimee a break with this bullshit.

    And all this talk about how they’re better trained… please. You didn’t pluck a character like Ziggy out of thin air. For every hard-working, knowledgeable union guy there are ten fucking Ziggys.

    I love the idea of unions, and they were probably great at one time, but the truth is the unions today don’t give a fuck about the working class. They care about their members and their members only. And because of that they’re fast becoming just as obsolete as the republican party.

  • Ironic that both Ryan and Romney came out so strong this week for the unionized (real) refs considering the Repubs strong distaste for organized labor. I guess it doesn’t apply when the unionized workers do it as their very lucrative second job.

  • Can someone pls tell me if my man David Simon is on Twitter yet, I cant find him ,but sometimes weird profile fill ins hide people. If he is on Twitter and you know the handle could you please tweet it to me @Ozsportsdude

    Would be very grateful, If he isnt, is there something somewhere that tweets a link everytime he writers something.


    • Won’t tweet. Hate how reductive it is as a form of communication. If a ever get a twitter account it will be simply used to highlight relevant items. No witticisms, no snark. When I read someone trying hard to be consistently clever on twitter, I am usually disappointed by whatever it is they are actually saying and how unexplored those ideas often are amid the half-assed laugh lines and quick cultural references.

      It’s the prose-conversation equivalent of my recent experience with that carved-to-shit Reason Magazine interview. Just when someone is about to say something the slightest bit detailed or complicated, its either time to interrupt or to move on to something else. Nothing worth saying gets said, and then from within the echo chamber, everyone involved rushes to compliment themselves on just how clever they seem to be.

      If it’s worth discussing or writing about, then it is. If it isn’t, then even 140 character is too much. Sorry. Wish I saw more in it than I do. But it’s just not for me. I’d rather write something, and then have other people write something back, and go from there. Everyone says their peace and puts the best arguments forward. That seems to me to be a journey worth taking.

      • Forever and ever, amen. And may I just add that Facebook is just as bad. (I’m not an old fogey, but I refuse to use either service.)

      • David – I think I know where you are coming from. Twitter can be powerful, but is awfully misused.

        Twitter is a dynamic dance card of curated information sources. But when it is used as a forum for real discourse….well, you’ve seen it – it’s an embarrassment. A fool’s errand. It’s a bastardization of the tool.

        For me. I find twitter to be a very effective real time, dynamic information agent that I can continually customize. It’s a launch agent to virtual discussions that I might otherwise be able to find. It’s an aggregator of sorts. It’s not a forum for give and take.

        It saddens me to know that it is mostly used for the Bieber and Honey Boo Boo focused of the world, but that shouldn’t devalue the tool.

        Even the worst politicians use pencils, right?

        Give it a shot.

      • Although I do use Twitter, that’s a great point about the effect it has had outside of that world.

        If people ask for my opinion on something, I take a moment and then weigh out – out loud – both sides of the argument. However, most people don’t have the patience to wait for me to come down on one side or the other. They are so used to hearing opinions latex out in 140 characters or less that I’m often accused of being a fence sitter.

        How, I ask, can one form an opinion either way without inspecting both gardens, and finding out the background of the work that went in to creating that landscape?

      • I just discovered how much fun Twitter can be. Ditto Facebook. It’s great for those of us who suffer from adult onset attention deficit disorder. I am usually too impatient/lazy to learn how to operate new technology. My kids and wife consider me a cave man. I have mastered the use of fire and do all the cooking, hunting and gathering for the household. In turn, they occasionally try to coach me on how to navigate cyberspace, use a Mac, IPhone, IPad, that sort of thing. I agree with Stephen, its a good tool when used appropriately. Younger people seem to use it for quick communiques, to alert friends where the good music is happening, where there’s free bar bites at happy hour. They retweet clever, stupid, snarky tweets they think friends will enjoy. I follow some comics to see what they are tweeting about the election or whatever the issue du jour is. I’ll tweet my own one liners for my own small but loyal band of followers. The short format (140 characters) is longer than a headline, more like a photo caption. I used to work as a reporter and occasional copy editor for a small newspaper when we still used the hot type process. Back in the goodle days.
        Tweeting allows me to exercise the mental muscles I used back then. Once I get enough tweets, I’m gonna self publish a volume, do an audio book and then go on a book tour. I’ll send you a copy in return for a blurb for the paperback edition.

  • Is it possible that the owners (for whom I have not love) are holding hard against the regular NFL refs
    in an attempt to curb their association with gamblers who can offer rewards for making a call now and
    then in the gambler’s interest ?

    • A lot of things are possible. Especially if we speculate without the slightest evidence.

      What is most probable, however, is that this fool of a league commissioner is willing to impair his product and the reputation of the entire sport in order to save a few shekels by not paying for first-rate officiating.

      And by the way, which would you trust not to associate with gamblers. The pro refs with all their background, training, seniority and union affiliation? Or the second-rater you picked up to fill in on a short-time basis who have no long term institutional commitment from the league?

      It. Pays. To. Go. With. The. Union. Label.

  • Collective bargaining in private business is acceptable. CB in the public sector is a joke. Look no further then Chicago & the teachers union for evidence.

    Goodell has ambitions to make the NFL a $25 billion industry. Guess he’ll need to squeeze every penny possible to get it to that revenue level. Whatever leverage the NFL had left in these negotiations when out the door w/ the game last night.

    I think you’ll see it get resolved this week.

    • Agree on the NFL.
      Disagree on collective bargaining for public employees. Job actions in certain professions are problematic, I agree, and the Chicago situation calls that out. But denying labor a collective voice in any enterprise is no victory for anyone other than capital itself.

      • I don’t think it’s wrong to have collective bargaining in the public sector, but I do think that it’s wrong to blame public officials for taking a hard line with public sector unions at times when the city/state is facing financial hardship. Too often politicians are painted as “anti-union” when they are simply trying to be fiscally responsible in their dealings with public sector unions. We can’t claim on one hand that the profit motive should not drive public sector endeavors (police, fire, education, etc.) and then allow public sector unions to claim that they should be treated in exactly the same way as their private sector counterparts.

        • Everything is a negotiation. The state has an argument and those who labor for the state do as well. I see no philosophical difference between public and private dynamic.

          If a union overreaches, it should lose. If management overreaches, they should lose. That is what the negotiation is for. And it is in that tension — neither side winning, neither side losing on every issue — that we grew the greatest economic engine the world has ever seen in the span of the 20th Century. It’s in that tension that we became the most economically productive society ever, and we created a consumer class with a great capacity for discretionary purchasing out of anotherwise economically marginal laboring class. Both things fueled the engine. Both things need to be nurtured.

          And without the negotiation — without the debate, the argument — both things will not be nurtured.

          • Agreed 100%. All I’m saying is that if there’s a public responsibility to provide and fund public services (fire, police, teachers) then those providing that service are “public servants” and the dynamic of the necessary debate and argument may be a bit different.

            Maybe what I’m trying to say is that the threshold for “overreach” is lower for a public sector union than it is for a private sector. Think of the last two prominent examples: The NFL is trying to keep a few million in its coffers, the City of Chicago was trying to keep the city from going further into the red. While I certainly don’t begrudge any worker (or group of workers) from trying to get as much as they can, as a citizen I have a vested stake in keeping the demands (or the results) of public sector unions reasonable, in a way that I don’t for public. That’s all I’m saying.

            • I take your point.

              I would only add that the threshold for possible gain by employees in the public sector is also low-ceilinged to begin with. They are school teachers. They may be arguing over the the margins, but no one can expect to get rich being a public school teacher. Or a fire fighter. Or a cop. Or a sanitation worker. Many, many public-sector unions, and private-sector unions as well, have shown an absolute awareness of the economic realities and have been enduring benefit cuts and salary caps and mitigation of seniority throughout the country over the last couple decades. Again, the negotiation, when it reflects the relative health of the industry is already factored in. In short, the perameters of the negotiation are already circumscribed by the position that public school teachers occupy in our society.

              • Agreed entirely. I suppose my only point was that I don’t like it when governors/mayors/etc are portrayed by some as “anti-union” just for playing the management role in that negotiation.

                As an aside, I myself spent many years working in government, and am the first to object when public employees are demonized or misrepresented.

                Thank you as always for a thoughtful back and forth.

                • Well, that fellow in Wisconsin is, I’m afraid, anti-union. So is the fool in Maine who wanted to paint the great Frances Perkins off the wall mural at the state Department of Labor. Some people are, in fact, anti-union. And they are, in fact, in the pocket of capital.

                  You should read, “Big Trouble,” by J. Anthony Lukas. I’m not saying the Wobblies were right to blow the Governor of Idaho to bits as they did. Certainly not. But I understand who he was and where they were coming from.

          • “If a union overreaches, it should lose. If management overreaches, they should lose. That is what the negotiation is for. And it is in that tension — neither side winning, neither side losing on every issue — that we grew the greatest economic engine the world has ever seen in the span of the 20th Century.”

            But I think there is a major problem in that, at least in many places, the environment for this to happen in any significant manner just isn’t there in the public sector. The public, by and large, is just not interested in looking out for the long term financial stability of their local and state governments. So there is no real force on the side of management in these public sector negotiations. The politicians essentially end up only responding to and attempting to please the unions because they are by far the loudest voices in these situations. It’s almost as if there is just a one way negotiation. As long as something is feasible in the short term, the public employee unions by and large get nearly everything they want. Almost nobody is looking after the long term or even, in many cases, the interests of the people who are served by the specific government programs whose employee contracts are being negotiated.

            I’m an Illinois resident and have been, off and on, a resident of Chicago. The situation with the Chicago teachers that was mentioned is a perfect illustration of this. I can tell you that if you discuss the teacher negotiations with most Chicagoins who are interested in the issue you will find that only a small percentage even grasp any long term practical realities that should be considered. People generally have a positive opinion (rightfully) of teachers and as a result decide that they deserve a raise and most of the other things they are asking for. But if you ask how they think this can be paid for they just basically shrug off the question as if it is someone else’s issue. But they definitely wouldn’t support any tax increases. This is basically how the situation has played out during every contract negotiation in the past. And so there is always a major budget deficit every year that means the school district must always be in survival mode rather than attempting any programs that might make a real difference in improving the chances for students to get ahead. And this exact situation plays out throughout the rest of city government and probably even more so the state (which is in very severe financial distress and has spent the last few years delaying payments it owes to such things as social service providers) . I suspect there’s a similar dynamic in Maryland and elsewhere though it probably isn’t quite as bad.

            I really have lost any confidence that the public is capable of putting the needed pressure on politicians to look out for everyone’s long term interests during collective bargaining processes. This is obviously a pretty engrained dynamic and its not as if there is going to be a successful effort to convince the taxpayers to change the way they express themselves to their elected leaders. So there isn’t going to be the necessary tension in union negotiations and the unions will always win even when they overreach. The result will be the inability to provide the government services that you and I think are necessary. I’m beginning to think that collective bargaining just can’t work in the public sector because the taxpayers are not capable of insisting that their political leaders negotiate in a strong manner with the unions. So I’m close to the point where I wonder if the best choice is the one that Scott Walker made. It would be unfortunate because you are right that unions do provide many benefits. But I think the problems just may be too big and that, in the public sector, their negatives outweigh the good they do.

            • I am a twenty five-year-old law student in Chicago. I’ve been following the teacher’s strike fairly closely and something you said stuck out to me.

              “People generally have a positive opinion (rightfully) of teachers and as a result decide that they deserve a raise and most of the other things they are asking for”

              What was interesting to me is that almost everyone my age I know agrees with the first thing you said, but not the second.

              I would say that most 20-somethings I know are very supportive of teachers and believe government needs to be spending more, not less, on government. That being said, it is pretty difficult for a lot of young people to muster sympathy for the teachers union, or other unions for that matter, based on the fact that they make unheard of salaries compared to anyone else who entered the job market after 2008.

              Ezra Klein’s blog produced what I think is probably the best estimate of the salary public school teachers in Chicago receive– 71k median, and a starting salary around 54k.

              Those numbers are astronomically high compared to anything we will be making in the foreseeable future.

              I am applying for a legal fellowship working with inner-city youth that will pay around 39k for two years. After two years, there is virtually no chance that will turn into a long-term position unless I can find alternative funding. On top of all that, I have 6 digit student loans to work off.

              The majority of my peers don’t have a graduate degree, and make something akin to minimum wage or are unemployed.

              Most would love to have an entry level position in CPS. They’d probably do a good job too.

              All that being said, I think teachers should be paid well over 100,000 dollars in order to make the profession competitive and attract the best and the brightest.

              Education is the most important service our government provides. I shudder to think what kind of Tea Partiers my generation is going to have to deal with 15-20 years from now due to how education was neglected by the previous generation.

              My point is that I think unions are going to inevitably lose their political support as their wages vastly outpace what the next generation earns. I worry about a “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” problem when there is real abuse of unionized workers in industries where unions play a vital role in counter-balancing management monopoly power.

  • well, the whole matter should settle down after the end of tonight’s Packers/Seahawks game

    on the brighter side, Treme is back. i know all is right with the world when i see Antoine shorting his hack in the opening scene of the season

    • That was an incredible call, wasn’t it? How unprofitable is the NFL that they would wreck their credibility over the pension issue involving referees? Geez, they must be barely breaking even to stay this focused on something so modest. I mean, who knew. I thought pro football had some revenue to it.

      • According to an Op-Ed piece by Thad Williamson in the NY Times, the owners are trying to save 3.3 million a year based on the type of pension plan they want to fund for the referees. Given the net worth of each franchise, and the massive revenue stream each team generates, the “savings” are ridiculous.

        The piece suggests the commissioner should offer his resignation. Probably a little premature, but if the dollar estimates are correct, this is far more pathetic than I first thought. Beyond bizarre that such a paltry amount of money (3.3 million’s a lot to me, but spread out over every NFL team, it’s nothing) is throwing the credibility of the league into question.


      • I’m union and wish desperately my workplace had a right to organize. Having said that, the guy who upheld the ruling wasn’t a replacement. The replay booth guys aren’t part of the work stoppage. They missed the offensive pass interference call, but that can happen on a toss up in the end zone.

        Under the simultaneous catch rule, I don’t think it was an awful call. If there was evidence to overturn it the replay guy would have found it. And he ain’t no scab.

        • Issac,

          That’s not true. The rules make it clear that a ruling of who had possession cannot be overturned by replay. So once the officials on the field made the final decisions there was nothing that replay could have done under the rules. The NFL has made that clear over the last couple days as did Gerry Austin, the former referee who was in the MNF broadcast booth after the game. The error was made on the field and not with the replay. And in theory, the replay official isn’t the final decision maker anyway. The referee is the one that makes the decision after he views a replay (though I suspect with these replacement referees there has been somewhat of a different dynamic there and probably the league office has often been involved on replay calls).

          • Actually Riec, simultaneous catch is reviewable. As is whether the ball hit the field and whether or not the receiver had possession. The difference is that it occurs in the end zone not in the regular field of play. Go Bengals!

  • Completely pro-union, of course, but it is quite a bummer that it took this strike and the introduction of scabs to get a woman hired to be a referee. I’m not pro-scab by any means, but I’d like to see women not shut out when the labor dispute gets settled; they are pretty often left behind in public labor disputes, despite their disproportionate contribution to the blue-collar workforce and their disproportionate likelihood of poverty.

  • Sweet Lord of Heavenly Hosts, so help me if that bullshizen call on Webb had been the last say in that game! Oh man.

  • David – I assume you are exemplifying your argument with the fact that the current crop of “stand-in” refs is not up to snuff. Nobody who has a decent understanding of NFL rules would argue with you. I think another issue is worth point out though. Assuming the “normal” officials – all of whom have day jobs in other industries (most of which do not have unions) – would still be officiating games were it not for the union’s existence, then it seems to me the existence of the union is the problem. No union, no strike, everybody is happy – except the refs who are holding out to prevent the NFL from hiring full-time refs, ostensibly to increase the quality of the experience for consumers. Just my .02.

    • Really, really backwards. You’re talking to someone who has been a union member his whole life. The Baltimore-Washington Newspaper Guild allowed me to make a living wage. Before the Baltimore Sun was unionized and successfully struck by the union in 1966, their wage-rate was among the worst in newspapering and their benefits among the most meagre. Years later, as they sought to cut our medical coverage, it turned out that they were turning profits of more then 30 percent annually over to Wall Street and investors.

      The American Century was made so by the creative tension between labor and capital, with neither side vanquishing the other. One was able to generate mass wealth, ameliorated only by the influence of the other, which was, through collective bargaining, able to take the American laboring class and transform it to a consumer class that drove our economy to extraordinary heights.

      We’ve been dismantling that consumer class and organized labor systematically for the last thirty years, and now, we wonder why we’re not able to sell ourselves not only the things we need, but the things we don’t need — the discretionary purchases — that drive our economy. When labor is perceived only as a cost, and not as a societal asset, the result will, in the long run, be economic stagnation. Since 1980, real wages going down, more wealth concentrated in the one-percent, more societal debt, etc. And big surprise, the highest rates of poverty in America are all in right-to-work states. The future that you imagine in your post is one under which Americans are already suffering.

      The future of America is the future of labor. John L. Lewis said that, and tragically, he seems quite prescient.

    • I think it’s off base to criticize the replacement referees. They’re doing their best in extremely difficult circumstances. I don’t know about anybody else but if I had spent my life refereeing high school or semipro football and had a chance to spend a few weeks refereeing NFL games, I would take it in a heartbeat. I imagine I’m not alone in that sentiment.

      • What part of the word “scab” is eluding you?

        They are amateurs who, for a paycheck, have damaged the very industry that pays them, and they stand between professionals and their livelihood by delaying the resolution of collective bargaining between labor and management.

        • I guess I’m not 100% in agreement with your definition of “the industry that pays them”. These men have never been paid by the NFL (until now obviously) they get paid by other leagues or entities.

          I don’t like the word “scab” because I think it demonizes people who are just, in themselves, trying to make a living. The phrase “right to work” has been abused by many conservatives, but that is in fact what these people have. None of these replacement referees are starving I’d imagine, but let’s use another example. If a person who’s not in a union and is out of work can make some money for his family by unloading a ship or working in a factory or driving a truck while the union workers are on strike, why should we begrudge him that? Why does he have to feel loyalty, or respect the work action, of a union he’s not even in?

          If management puts inexperienced workers (“scabs”) on the football field or the assembly line or behind the wheel of a forklift, then they can rightly be criticized. But to blame the replacements themselves just for trying to make a living themselves, seems a bit off base. I don’t think that’s what Mr. Simon or the original poster are doing, but in general I feel like a word such as “scab” can carry that implication.

          • I like it just fine.

            They are scabs. They are standing between workers and their livelihoods, and rather than standing in solidarity with the referees
            who they demean by attempting to do their work without qualification or training, they seek to take advantage of a lockout by
            a league management that is making some of the largest profits ever seen in the history of professional sports.

            What pay and benefits the referees do receive — and the scab referees now benefit from — is the result of years of negotiation
            on previous contracts by the union members who are now vulnerable and deserving of support. And while the referees gleaned those
            benefits, make no mistake: The NFL made money hand over fist. The contract with the referees, or with the players for that matter,
            scarcely impeded the ability of the owners to rake in cash.

            So now, when the referees stand for their pension and as pay increase, these fellows crawl in the side door, incompetent in their
            abilities, and attempt to take jobs that pay what they only because of the long work of collective bargaining and union representation.

            Scabs. Plain and simple.

            If one crossed my picket line, I’d spit on his shoes.

            • Fair points. I suppose I trust the market a little more, in this limited sense: If the replacements are incompetent, their incompetence will soon be discovered, as it is in the case of these referees. If they can do the job adequately, then perhaps they have just as much of a right to the position as the striking union members. An employer does have the right to employ (or not) whoever he wants (as long as he’s not violating the terms of a contract of course) and must pay the consequences of his decisions. It’s what the NFL owners are doing now.

              • I’m sorry. I can’t meet you halfway on this.

                A scab is a scab is a scab. I never crossed a picket line and I never will. Fact is, I am a Ravens season-ticket holder. I went to a preseason game, but when the lockout continued into the season, I resolved not to attend. I already paid for the tickets, true, but I can’t bring myself to show such disrespect to people who are asking for legitimate improvement in their economic share of an industry that is extremely profitable.

                An employer has every right to be a sonofabitch, you are correct. It doesn’t make him any less of a sonofabitch, or his workers any more justified in their opposition to his greed and excesses. Such is the case with the NFL.

          • The State of Illinois doesn’t respect any unoins. The governor for the last two years has worked to tell the people who work for the state that they would be getting a pay raise this year. After not having any raise for two years in a row..Now he is going to recant those very words he promised. How can anyone take this adminstration seriously if they barter to lessen the burden only to lie about when they are going to honor the contract they signed. Anyone else would have to pay up no one can tell the person they owe money to that they can’t pay this month don’t have the money. All creditors would take back what you owe them for. Amazing all the crap that politicians do to the very people who got them elected. I personally can’t stand anyone who is going to lie right to my face and then slap me on the back to congratulate me for being a good sport and understanding. Again what to do with these types of people they want their 100k pension when the rest of the state will only be able to live month to month. Just my thoughts .enjoy your day!

          • What Mr. Simon is neglecting to mention is the fact that the term “scab” is not used to refer specifically to strikebreakers anymore; the unions now use it as a catch-all phrase for any non-union worker. The unions also aren’t interested in any vague notions of worker solidarity or worker equality, what they want is more work for themselves and less for the rest of the working class. They don’t want you in their union, and they don’t want you working in their territory. The fight shifted a long time ago from capital against labor to union labor against capital and non-union labor. And while wages may be stagnant for those of us not fortunate enough to be able to ride our daddy’s coattails into a cush union job, the unions – in Philadelphia, at least – have been negotiating wage and benefit increases all the way up to the recent recession. Like Mr. Simon said in another comment: Greed is Greed. The unions got fucking greedy, and that’s a large part of why they’re on the ropes.

            • And yet in this case I am using it precisely.

              They were scab refs.

              There was a lockout of union employees and they took those jobs in the interim. I’m neglecting nothing. You’re changing the subject.

              “The future of America is the future of labor.”

              John L. Lewis said that and sadly, the last thirty years have proved him exactly right. And the greedheads want us to ignore that thirty-year arc.

              Union, union, union. And if you want to find the ten American states with the lowest wages and the highest rates of poverty, just look for the right-to-work jurisdictions. Oh my — they’re the same.

              • How am I changing the subject? The subject is unions. I’m just trying to dig a little deeper into it. I think it’s a complex issue that you sort of do a disservice to when you use one instance of incompetence in some obscure referee union to post this boilerplate “Unions are great” memo; I think it comes off sounding like the “government is bad” of the left. You just completely dismiss an entire swath of the workforce, of which I’m a part of, as incompetent assholes.

                Yeah, in this case you used the term “scab” precisely, but it’s a fine line you’re walking and I suspect you’re well aware of that. I mean, C’mon Mr. Simon, you’re a journalist, you know exactly what you’re doing, you’ve been doing it since before I was a gumball rattling around in my father’s nutsack. Look, I think we can both agree that the future of labor is the future of America. Where our opinions start to split is in the belief that the unions are the proper vehicle to transport us into that future. I don’t necessarily believe that they are. Is it a newsflash that people in geographically isolated areas have a higher instance of poverty? People in Maine are poorer too, and they’re a closed shop state. I don’t know if you can draw a direct correlation between the two. I make sixteen bucks an hour and I work out of New jersey, so please, tell me more about all the benefits I get from the unions besides being harassed and shut out of working in certain areas. I would love to belong to a union, but they won’t have me. Shit, even at the height of the real estate boom, around 2002, they were only accepting around 30 guys a year into the apprenticeship. The books have been closed since 09. Unions make up, what, ten percent of the workforce? If you’re willing to write off the other 90% to protect your ideology, well…

                But, at the risk of violating the guidelines of the comment section and telling my life story, I gotta say I’m full of shit. I WAS in the union. Or, rather, I would’ve gotten in the apprenticeship – when I got out of high school my buddy’s father who was in got me a job as a “seasonal helper” with a union shop, but at the time I happened to be fucking around with percocets and oxycontins, you know, just “chipping” as they say. Before I knew it I had traded that in for a full-blown heroin addiction and everybody knew what I was up to. I wound up going to rehab while I was on that job, and that was a wrap, I pretty much got blackballed. But, still, everything else I said was true and you know it. You know how they operate: they are exclusive – not inclusive – clubs for a tiny number of workers.

                But if you don’t believe me, then check out this article when you get a chance about a controversial jobsite in Philly right now which could very well decide the fate of the trade unions in that city, it’s well worth the read. Not good for their public image, not good.


                By the way, I’m looking forward to checking out “The House I live In” this weekend. Keep up the good work!

  • Mr. Simon,

    As a long term fan of your shows, books, and public speaking I thought I should share this link: Dan Rodricks interviews Baltimore’s new Chief of PD. (http://www.wypr.org/podcast/baltimores-next-police-chief-anthony-batts-wednesday-august-29-1-2-pm) There seems to be some sort of disconnect with reality, as he (Anthony Batts, definitely not Bealfeld) and even the Mayor specifically points out The Wire as some sort of aberration in the history of Baltimore and that your show is the reason why Baltimore has a bad rap. As a young person who allow me to summarize my feelings on this: WTF?

    Your thoughts?

    • You know, I really don’t have a problem when public officials or anyone else are dismissive of The Wire or anything else I’m involved in. Everyone has a right to think as they do, Mr. Batts and Mr. Rodricks included.

      I react when someone begins to utilize their official position to argue against our right and standing to tell the story we wish to tell (Baltimore City Council voting on official resolutions against The Wire, attempts by the mayor to pull our filming permits) or when they go so far as to suggest we owe an apology for our storytelling (Bealefeld). For some people, standing up and saying I don’t agree and here’s why is insufficient. For some, they go beyond that and advance their personal opinion into an official action. Or more remarkably, they find it necessary to insist that the storytellers, in this case fellow Baltimoreans, need to apologize and disavow for having opinions that differ.

      It’s at those points that I talk back. And not before.

      By way of comparison: I don’t want to give my money for a chick-fil-a sandwich to a company run by a homophobic proponent of inequality. But neither do I want to do anything to prevent him from operating a business and selling sandwiches to others who feel differently. Similarly, I don’t require affirmation from any public official for anything I write or film, but neither do I want any official to attempt to any influence what I write or to demand anything so remarkable as a public apology for telling a tale that is disagreeable to them.

      The Chick-fil-A nonsense was an embarrassing overreach on the part of liberals. So, too, would be any attempt by me to mitigate anyone’s publicly expressed displeasure with anything I write. I’ve never done that. I’ve interposed only at those points in which an official act has been undertaken, or when an official demanded a public disavowal of the work.

      • Thank you Mr Simon for articulating your opinion, I wish politicians invested as much time in articulating their reasoning as you do. Apologies for getting the union post sidetracked, but as a new comer to Baltimore I couldn’t believe a television show was being scapegoated on public radio and without any follow up.

        PS: Loved Treme season 3 premier.

  • Had Ray Rice, Tom Brady, Joe Flacco, Ray Lewis, Rob Gronkowski, or any number of other star players been injured during one of the many shoving matches that interrupted a large portion of last night’s game, they’d have had a deal done this morning. The officials don’t have much leverage, and the league has no real incentive as of yet to reach an agreement.

    • Yep. If the choice is between paying the legitimate cost of labor or making more money through the presentation of inferior product, American enterprise never fails to disappoint.

    • I think there were two things in the last couple of days which might – MIGHT – push the league to settle with the refs already. The first was Belichick grabbing and yanking an official. Not a pretty picture, and it puts the NFL in the awkward position of having to penalize their golden team. The other was the Monday night call, in all its bizarreness. Both happened on nationally telecast games. Everyone saw these messes and the NFL can’t hide from the mess any longer.

      In the meantime, perhaps all stadiums can adopt M&T’s chant. Anything which ticks off the television networks will bring more pressure on the league.

      • I wouldn’t label the Patriots as the NFL’s “golden team”; especially in light of the fact that Bill Belichick was on the receiving end of the biggest fine ever handed out by the NFL to a head coach.

        Also, I’m not sure that the incompetence that occurred at the end of the Monday night game will do much to sway the NFL; whether we’re discussing a regional or national game, the audience is large enough to warrant some sort of response by the league if they actually cared enough to solve the issue. I certainly don’t believe they’re thrilled with the performance of these officials, but the Thursday night Giants – Panthers game was the highest rated cable show of the night.

        As fans of the game, and of the individual teams, we’re seeing a watered down version of a product we’ve come to love. The players are having their hard work compromised by shoddy officiating, and teams are suffering in the standings. But this is nothing new as the horrendous calls started in week one. The NFL has had to endure some bad press lately about this, but they’ve been dealing with bad press for a while now, whether it was the fact that the season was compromised last year due, again, to labor negotations, or the ongoing dispute about concussions, player safety, health care and pensions.

        It all boils down to what Mr. Simon was talking about: when the league actually starts to view the regular referees, with their experience, training, and skill, as an ASSET to the game, instead of just a cost or necessary evil, they’ll do something about this.

        I’d love to believe that in the wake of the disaster last night, something would be done immediately, but it’s difficult to be optimistic considering these games are still being sold out, and everyone, including myself, is still watching on tv. There’s no reason for the NFL to really budge on anything. Not yet anyway.

        My guess is that enough teams will get screwed the owners will finally get involved: completely out of self-interest.

        • Or a player will be hurt because of the unpoliced thuggery that’s going on away from the ball because these referees couldn’t find their ass with both hands. When someone is paralyzed or worse, then and only then will the league pretend to reflect on the contempt that they’ve shown their players, their fans, the refs and their own product.

          • I’m just waiting for the Roger Goodell-led press conference where they trot out spread sheets that suggest these scabs have a higher accuracy rate than the refs who should be working these games and that what we’re all seeing is actually a better officiated game week to week than we’ve seen in years. Because I guarantee those conversations have taken place.

            And we’d of course all believe them, and our respect for the scabs would grow exponentially because nobody ever played with stats before. Ugh.

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