The National Basketball Association and the NBA Players Union broke off collective bargaining yesterday, again, and now the season is jeopardy. Here is the New York Times story. The Players have been locked out since the summer, and the exhibition season has already been cancelled. Enough already. It’s time to for the American government to pass back-to-work legislation!! Dammit. [I’d add that Ontario should also pass back-to-work legislation ordering an end to the Toronto Raptors lockout of its players, but since the lockout of the Raptors’ players is already unlawful, there is no need].
What, you think back-to-work legislation for basketball teams is a dumb idea?
Well, when is it appropriate to end a labour dispute by legislation? Is there something important that distinguishes basketball from an airline’s desk clerks?
It used to be that back-to-work legislation was reserved for situations in which “essential public services” were threatened, such as when human safety was threatened if the work stoppage continued. But in Canada, our governments have long since moved pass this quant idea. Canadians LOVE back-to-work legislation. No other country in the world has been found in violation of the International Labour Organization’s prohibition on back-to-work legislation in non-essential services more than Canada. We order back transit workers, teachers, garbage collectors, teaching assistants, flight attendants, desk clerks, letter carriers. The current Federal government will no doubt order baggage handlers back to work if Air Canada’s strike later this fall. Back to work legislation is apparently now appropriate for large private for-profit-publicly-traded corporations.
Well, if Air Canada desk clerks and baggage collectors are now ‘essential’ workers, then surely basketball players are too.
The explanation the Conservatives gave for the need to order back Air Canada ticket collectors and flight attendants was that a work stoppage would cause economic harm. Same explanation given for ordering back letter carriers. Nevermind that there was little if any evidence that either work stoppage was actually harming the Canadian economy. The fact that people can fly other airlines, and that snail mail is soooo last century doesn’t matter. The threshold to justify legislating an end to labour stoppages is now so low, there doesn’t even need to be actual harm to the economy or the public.
On the other hand, we can clearly see the economic harm caused by each lost Raptor game, dammit. In every city where there is a pro basketball team, dozens of workers are out of work: all the people who work at the basketball games selling beer, hot dogs, and t-shirts, the ticket collectors, the scalpers. Then there is all the lost revenues associated with each game from transit, restaurants, bars, taxis, hotels, strip joints. It goes on and on. And the lost income for all those businesses and workers has multiplier effects across the economy, leading to fewer jobs, lower profits. Moreover, unlike Air Canada and Canada Post, who have many natural competitors that are more than happy to take over the business during a work stoppage, the NBA has no competitors. There is no other NBA. And the children! Oh, the poor children, whose lives revolve around watching their favourite NBA stars day in and day out.
There can be little doubt. The NBA lockout is causing way more economic and emotional harm across North America than the silly little work stoppages as Air Canada and Canada Post. So, what are our governments waiting for!!!
Join the fight. Back to Work for the NBA… Back to Work for the NBA… Back to work…