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Jim Hightower: Cheerleaders Should Be Booing NFL Owners

Jim Hightower thinks that NFL cheerleaders are an excellent example of labor exploitation in the NFL.
Jim Hightower: Cheerleaders Should Be Booing NFL Owners
Image from: Creative Commons license, Flickr

Jim Hightower has a little heads up for those football fans who don't give a thought about the work of the cheerleaders:

Overall, pro-team cheerleaders get $70 to $90 per game. That's for a 12-hour game day, plus uncompensated practice sessions that routinely run a grueling six hours, and mandatory promotional appearances. The teams nickel-and-dime the women by shorting their hours, and they even illegally fine their pep-leaders for such nonsense "transgressions" as bringing the wrong pom-poms to practice. And no health care for a job that puts you at constant risk of injury.

Then there's this Dickensian twist; The club management withholds all cheerleader pay – as meager as it is – until the end of the season, so the women are essentially indentured servants to teams wallowing in wealth, that the teams siphon out of the pockets of ticketholders and taxpayers.

That's exactly why the Oakland Raiderettes have sued for wage theft:

The Labor Department has the authority to assess penalties against employers for violating the federal government's $7.25-an-hour minimum wage law and other labor laws. It can order an employer to pay its workers twice the amount of wages that were illegally withheld.[..]

The Raiders pay their cheerleaders $1,250 for a season of 10 home games. [Class action suit's named plaintiff] Lacy T.'s lawsuit said their wages amount to less than $5 an hour - below the state's $8 minimum wage - counting the hours of unpaid work they are required to perform at rehearsals, 10 charity events per season and the team's annual swimsuit calendar photo session.

The suit also accused the Raiders of violating California law by requiring the Raiderettes to pay all costs of travel, team-mandated cosmetics and other items; by fining them for such offenses as bringing the wrong pom-poms to practice; by withholding their pay until the end of the season instead of paying them at least twice a month; and by prohibiting them, in their work contracts, from discussing their pay with each other.

In point of fact, it is their 'secret handbook' that shows just how patronizing and insulting the Raider organization really is towards their good will ambassadors.

[H]ere’s what the Raiders feel is important to impart to grown women, some of whom are married with children, all of whom have spent years of their lives training as performers on a public stage:

From the etiquette section: “First Impressions: It takes 3-5 seconds to form a first impression of someone. Think about the last time you met someone for the first time. You probably looked at their hair, jewelry, facial expressions, style of clothes, shoes and nails….Keep nail polish pads in your car for emergencies. Smile, shake hands with everyone.” “Proper Introductions: An introduction should be as immediate as possible…In American culture there are three basic elements to a proper introduction…” (That would be a smile, eye contact and a handshake.) A handshake, says the guide, “is an American custom that should be extended immediately upon introduction. A handshake should last about three seconds, be firm, and be web to web.” “Dining etiquette” addresses how to eat food in front of other people, which the handbook describes as “one of the most intimidating areas of etiquette.” “If you don’t like your meal, try a little of everything and strategically move the rest around your plate.” And, “Gently unfold your napkin and place it on your lap. Fold it almost in half and place it with the fold side towards your body. If you need to leave the table, place the napkin on your chair, and don’t forget to say, ‘Excuse me.’” (Yeah, excuse me while I throw up.)

A section called “Rehearsal Absentee and Missed Games Policy” lists fines incurred for missed rehearsals. Oddly--or perhaps illegally, as Lacy T.’s lawsuit claims--cheerleaders are not compensated at all for their thrice weekly rehearsals. That means any fines for missed practices are deducted from the paltry $125 they earn for each home game.

See if you can follow along: “If you miss a Saturday rehearsal or weekday rehearsal (as in the final rehearsal prior to a game day performance), you will not be allowed to cheer that game. This means you will be fined 1 1/2 absences for the missed rehearsal and $125 will be deducted from your end of season pay for not performing on that game day. You will be notified if you are required to perform the pre-game and/or halftime routine and then remain in the dressing room for the duration of the game…Since three lates equal one absence and missing any rehearsal before a game is 1 1/2 absences, you can find yourself with no salary at all at the end of the season.”

Honestly, I'm starting to think cheerleaders are why God made labor unions.

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