WWE is a billion-dollar wrestling company, but not all that glitters is gold. Like any other corporate giant, WWE also has its shady ways of conducting business. One such unfair tactic is to manipulate its talent pool beyond measure. The company’s longtime usage of considering their Superstars as independent contractors may be coming to an end.
While WWE Superstars are contracted employees, Vince McMahon’s company still treats them as independent contractors. This means, while the employer can enjoy all sorts of control and authority over its employee, Superstars do not rep the full benefits of the independent contractor status.
On Thursday, John Pollock of POST Wrestling and Brandon Thurston of Wrestlenomics interviewed labor attorney Lucas Middlebrook. Middlebrook opines that if there were a unionization effort in WWE, the talent, as an “unrepresented group,” would need only 30 percent of the roster to sign union authorization cards.
“From a practical standpoint, you want to go in with more than 30 percent because you could have certain roster changes that could affect that percentage. But that’s the bare minimum that would need in order to file what they call a representation petition with the National Labor Relations Board.”
WWE would have the opportunity to argue that the wrestlers aren’t legally eligible for unionization. However, the burden of proof is on WWE to prove that the Superstars are independent contractors as opposed to it being on the talent to prove that they’re employees, which in this case would favor the wrestlers due to WWE’s level of control.
“Now you’re limiting what is supposed to be an independent contractor’s ability to earn outside of their primary work for you, the organization. I always felt like that was a big factor if it went to that independent contractor-employee analysis.”
“You run into what really can be endless contracts or endless restrictions on the individual and, again, on their ability to earn outside. A true independent contractor can serve multiple masters. That was the intent from the beginning. In my opinion, employers have used that designation unfairly to their advantage to avoid the benefits that come with employee status, the payroll taxes that come with employee status – things along these lines. And you see something similar in the UFC, too, where they can extend contracts based on turning down fights or something along those lines. […] In both of these industries, if you’ve ever read these contracts, these promotional contracts, the only way to describe it is tilted one way in favor of the entity. No question about that.”
The whole employee vs. independent contrator fiasco has kept denying wrestlers their travel expenses while on the road with WWE. The wrestlers are also denied pension or any retirement benefits whatsoever.
WWE’s rigid contract terms bars talents from competing for other companies, and this is in direct contrast with the perks enjoyed by an independent contractor. It remains to be seen whether this fiasco would continue under the potential new owners of WWE.
We’ll have to see how this situation pans out, obviously there is a lot to unpack. Keep it tuned here with Ringside News for more.
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