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Solidarity Forever

Yesterday was not just a good day for Women’s Hockey or Women’s Sports, but for Labor in general. The U.S. Women’s National Hockey Team , by increasing their training stipends from $6,000 (yup, six THOUSAND dollars paid in increments of $1,000 a month for ONLY the 6 months leading to the Olympics) to $70,000 annually every year, demonstrated the power of organized Labor and the effectiveness of Strike Action (though they called it a boycott).

The US women’s hockey team gave their employers the whipping of their lives
by DJ Gallo, The Guardian
Wednesday 29 March 2017

A week ago, the US national women’s team announced they planned to boycott this year’s world championships – set to begin later this week in Plymouth, Michigan – until they were paid a “living wage” by USA Hockey, the sport’s governing body in the United States. On Tuesday evening, the team approved a late offer that includes an exponential increase in compensation from $6,000 per player annually to $70,000, with the chance to reach six figures with performance bonuses. The deal is the hockey equivalent of winning 20-0 while playing three-on-five.

While the old agreement paid male and female players the same $6,000, a figure an economist or anyone over 12 will tell you is not a livable wage, the men’s team had their USA Hockey income nicely supplemented by multi-million dollar NHL contracts. The men’s team was afforded extra benefits, too. For example, the women were flown in coach while the men got business class. The men got to bring guests along to tournaments free of charge; the women were not, and had to bunk together upon arrival. Depending on the airline, the women may not have even been allowed to wear leggings. Even the per diem has been bumped up in the new deal from $15 a day to the $50 figure the men receive. USA Hockey has also vowed to spend more on girls’ development programs, making the boycott a huge success for female players at all levels and age groups.

“USA Hockey’s role is not to employ athletes, and we will not do so,” USA Hockey president Jim Smith said earlier this month.

Now here he is Smith speaking again on Tuesday night after the agreement was reached: “Today reflects everyone coming together and compromising in order to reach a resolution for the betterment of the sport. We’ll now move forward together knowing we’ll look back on this day as one of the most positive in the history of USA Hockey.”

Smith can call it a compromise, but the women’s players won in a rout. They only area the team compromised was maybe in agreeing not to rip USA Hockey’s beating heart out of its chest and hold it in their face.

As USA Hockey attempted to avoid the players’ demands by reaching out to potential replacement players from 16-year-olds to retired beer league players, those contacted quickly declined and in turn showed their support for the current players by using the same statement, dozens of small voices combining into a single powerful one: “Today I will do what others won’t so tomorrow I can do what other’s can’t.”

As the boycott gained momentum, the US men’s team players also began hinting they’d skip the men’s world championships in May if the women were not treated fairly. USA Hockey no doubt realized they were in over their heads every bit as much as that Swiss team from 25 years ago.

Despite Team Trump currently running America – and because of it – there is a vocal and growing opposition primed to stand up for any cause that supports women, those who are not treated fairly or people taken advantage of economically. This particular boycott by Team USA just so happened to check off all of those boxes and should serve as a warning to every league and governing body that athletes now realize their bargaining potential.

No one will compare the $6,000 pittance women’s players got from USA Hockey to $6m and more many male athletes are making in the four majors, but the current national mood is not one in which many will take the side of those with more money and power over those with less. Few want to hear a billionaire team owner cry poverty, or a governing body claim they can’t pay their athletes enough in a year to buy a decent used car to get to practice. There is little public appetite for increasing league profits over the financial security of a fullback who gets his head beat in on every play of a brief career. Fans cheer for the athletes, not management. Always. On the field and off.

Women’s national team ends boycott after securing historic contract from USA Hockey
by Lindsay Gibbs, Think Progress
Wednesday 29 March 2017

History has been made. Fifteen months after negotiations first began, and 13 days after the U.S. women’s national team first announced its boycott of the upcoming IIHF World Championships over unfair treatment and inequitable wages, the USWNT and USA Hockey have reached a monumental deal that provides the current players with livable wages and equitable resources and that solidifies a bright future for the sport.

Prior to this boycott, the team was only earning $6,000 every four years from USA Hockey — $1,000 a month for the six months before every Olympics — and USA Hockey was spending nothing on elite girls’ programs, compared to the $3.5 million a year spent on elite boys’ programs.

As reported by Johnette Howard of espnW, the new, four-year deal increases the salaries of the USWNT players to about $70,000 a year, and allows the players the chance to win performance bonuses based on their results at the world championships and the Olympics. Additionally, USA Hockey will guarantee that each player on the national team, regardless of experience level, will receive a $2,000 a month training stipend, and establish a compensation pool totaling $950,000 by the end of the four years. USA Hockey will also provide the same travel arrangements — including per diems — and insurance coverage to the women’s team as it does to the men’s team.

But perhaps most crucially for the next generation, USA Hockey and the USWNT will establish a committee focused on improving the promotion and organization of the women’s game, and add a foundation position to improve fundraising efforts for the elite girls’ programs.

The USWNT’s message of mistreatment and discrimination clearly struck a chord with people throughout the world. Throughout the past two weeks, as USA Hockey released misleading information about its compensation models, reneged on terms after negotiations, and searched high and low for replacement players, unions across sports — including the NHL Player’s Association, MLBPA, NFLPA, and NBAPA — all issued statements of solidarity with the USWNT.

Over the weekend, the U.S. men’s team reportedly considered boycotting its world championships in May if USA Hockey and the USWNT did not reach a deal. And on Monday, as the two sides went back to the negotiating table in a last-ditch effort, star female athletes from multiple sports showed their support in a coordinated social media campaign, and 20 U.S. senators wrote a letter urging USA Hockey to resolve the issue quickly and provide the women’s team with “equitable resources.”

The extent of the outside support was impressive. But perhaps the single most impressive thing about this boycott was the solidarity shown by women’s hockey players throughout the ranks.

For the past week, USA Hockey has been reaching out to countless women’s hockey players throughout the country to see if they would cross the picket line and take the ice in Plymouth this weekend. But one after one refused be a scab.

Nicole Haase of Victory Press documented all of the known players who were approached by USA Hockey to serve as replacement players; the list that includes not only National Women’s Hockey League and Canadian Women’s Hockey League players, but also members of the U-18 team and Division III hockey teams. (Sports Illustrated reports that USA Hockey even reached out to players on the Under-16 national team.)

These players literally turned down the chance of a lifetime in order to secure the best outcome for the elite players now and the elite players of the future. Most will never again get a chance to compete in a world championship.

That solidarity is ultimately what allowed this boycott to be a success. The USWNT ended up with all of the leverage — USA Hockey was either going to have to come up with an appropriate offer, or suffer the embarrassment of hosting the world championships without a home team.

When the union’s inspiration through the workers’ blood shall run
There can be no power greater anywhere beneath the sun
Yet what force on earth is weaker than the feeble strength of one
For the Union makes us strong

Chorus

Solidarity forever, solidarity forever
Solidarity forever
For the Union makes us strong

Is there aught we hold in common with the greedy parasite
Who would lash us into serfdom and would crush us with his might?
Is there anything left to us but to organize and fight?
For the union makes us strong

It is we who ploughed the prairies, built the cities where they trade
Dug the mines and built the workshops, endless miles of railroad laid
Now we stand outcast and starving ‘mid the wonders we have made
But the union makes us strong

All the world that’s owned by idle drones is ours and ours alone
We have laid the wide foundations, built it skyward stone by stone
It is ours, not to slave in, but to master and to own
While the union makes us strong

They have taken untold millions that they never toiled to earn
But without our brain and muscle not a single wheel can turn
We can break their haughty power gain our freedom when we learn
That the Union makes us strong

In our hands is placed a power greater than their hoarded gold
Greater than the might of armies magnified a thousandfold
We can bring to birth a new world from the ashes of the old
For the Union makes us strong

1 comment

  1. ek hornbeck

    Vent Hole

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