Dave Duerson spent over ten years working in one of America’s most punishing professions. Day after day, he was hit at breakneck speed by 200-plus pound men attempting to throw him to the ground.
Last year, 17 years after retiring from professional football, Duerson killed himself. Posthumous studies of Duerson’s brain found that he had contracted severe brain injuries in the course of his career, causing dementia, depression and other severely debilitating symptoms.
While the NFL doesn't much like to talk about the link between aggressive tackles and subsequent brain damage, the players’ union has fought to shine light on the science backing such claims and established a disability board to support players and their families affected by cognitive impairment.
When NFL owners wanted to establish an 18-game season this year, it was the players’ union that fought back with justifiable concerns for their members’ safety.
If you’re thinking that, sure, football players have it rough, but they make tons of money, bear in mind they didn’t used to -- until they, like professional athletes in other major sports, joined together and formed a union so players could get their fair share of owner’s profits.
So it should come as little surprise to football fans of all political persuasions to learn that the NFL players association is condemning Republicans in Indiana for trying to gouge the rights of unions and workers in the state.
On the eve of the Super Bowl, to be held in a few weeks in Indianapolis, state Republicans backed by big business interests are trying to make Indiana a “Right to Work” state, undermining the ability of Hoosiers to choose to form a union.
The plain fact is that such laws should be called “Right to Work… For Less!” Workers in states with these anti-union laws take home $1,500 less per year than workers in pro-union states, whether those workers are in a union or not.
Ah, but at least they have a job, right? Wrong!
Six of the 10 states in America with the highest rates of unemployment are so-called “Right to Work” states.
But the law will bring businesses back to Indiana, right? Wrong!
Between 2009 and 2011, nearby anti-union states like Kansas and North Dakota saw zero manufacturing job growth or decline. South Dakota and Nebraska, also anti-union states, both gained under 3,000 net new manufacturing jobs in the same period. Meanwhile, during the same time, Indiana with its current laws allowing unionization gained over 25,000 new manufacturing jobs.
Numbers don’t lie. Big business interests do.
They keep trying to tell workers in Indiana and around the country that unions are evil and the cause of our economic hardship. But the fact of the matter is that, plain and simple, unions make sure that workers get paid better and get the basic health insurance and retirement plans they deserve.
CEOs may not like unions because they cut into company profits and executive bonuses a little bit, but make no mistake about it, paying workers a fair wage for a fair day’s work is good for our families, good for our economy and good for our nation.
At a time when corporate profits and CEO bonuses continue to reach record highs and yet wages remain stagnant, football players understand the value of workers teaming together to win their rights. “We know our success on the field comes from working together as a team, the players association said in their statement opposing the Indiana anti-union measure.
Giant corporations in America are very formidable, opposing teams, unfortunately not interested in fair pay packages or worker safety as much as they are in eking out as much profit as possible. It takes a team of workers, joined together, to balance out the playing field.
According to the football players association, “As Indianapolis proudly prepares to host the Super Bowl it should be a time to shine in the national spotlight and highlight the hard working families that make Indiana run instead of launching political attacks on their basic rights.”
The hard working people of Indiana should get to enjoy the football game, not be the ones getting tackled.
Sally Kohn is a political commentator and grassroots strategist. For more visit SallyKohn.com.