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Petshark: Talking Stick

Not so tough

I feel like I'm going through the stages of grief here.  Just when I'm ready to move on to acceptance of the lockout, Douglas Murray smashes the NHLPA's nice PR record to bits with this explanation:

“It’s tough to explain. People see how much money we make and we have, but I would ask them what would you say if the owner of the company you work for would just come and tell you, ‘OK, we’re taking away 20 percent of your salary.’
“And you ask why, and they say I just want to make more money. I don’t think you’d be that happy. Most people would probably switch jobs or at least not be very happy in that work environment.” -Working the Corners

Ugh.  I guess not everyone realizes companies have been doing just that-- asking employees to take pay cuts-- for years now.  Maybe it isn't called a pay cut.  Maybe it's pressure to become a partner and invest in the firm, even though you know you will have much less in your pocket at the end of the year.  Maybe you're offered stock options instead of cash.  One way or another, most of us are getting squeezed and switching jobs isn't so easy.

Do employers have a better excuse than "I want to make more money"?  No.  It's always about making more money, whether the company is flush or not.

Then there's this video from the NHLPA, which opens saying the players know the fans "suffer the most" in a lockout.  I know fans are the target audience there, but don't patronize me.  I know perfectly well I'm not the one who suffers the most when the games are cancelled.  I don't work for the NHL or one of its arenas or vendors.  I don't lose a day of work, employee benefits or a dime of mad money.  Most fans don't suffer the most in a lockout, and we know it.  We're still cranky:

@Isewinsf: Support your local Minor League Hockey teams! Go #AHL #ECHL #SFBulls!!!! Screw NHL Owners & Players!

I don't think it's a problem of understanding but one of perspective.

I don't have to imagine being asked to work for less, or for no salary at all.  What would I say?  I said "thanks for keeping me on the company health insurance policy."  I was not being sarcastic.

I do understand where Murray is coming from, minus many millions of dollars.  Until relatively recently, you didn't ask people to take pay cuts.  You removed the person you couldn't afford to keep, and you hired someone cheaper.  The higher paid employee could find work somewhere else without taking less.  No more.

I consider it nothing short of a miracle that the NHL is doing as well as it is.  True, professional sports tend to fare pretty well during depressions and recessions, but I'm not sure all parties in the NHL CBA negotiations realize just how lucky they have been.  Neither side can possibly predict how things will go in the next five to ten years.  I hope things go well, and not only because I want to see NHL hockey thrive.  If things go the other way again we are all in deep trouble.

Once upon a time I didn't care if the company was folding out from under me, I blamed the owner for botching the job and causing the problem.  I had a laundry list of the mistakes he'd made.  Now I don't think my employers all did bad jobs.  Some worked without paying themselves for years.  I saw so many companies go under, I began to think of myself as some kind of Typhoid Mary.  I gradually realized it wasn't just me, this was happening all over.

What has never changed is this: cutting salaries does not create growth, it just helps maintain the status quo.  If you want to grow, stop spending money trying to sell snow cones in Antarctica, move the franchise to the tropics... or Quebec, or Seattle, anywhere people actually seem to want your product.  The new market may not be better but there comes a time when you know it can't be worse.

Or the NHL could leave them where they are, write them off as charitable buffers for the local economies.  Just don't pretend cutting player costs will make them profitable.

Players and owners alike need to be more realistic about the economy they are working in.  Those eggs they are bickering over won't hatch if the chickens expected to lay them can't get enough to eat.  They don't control all that, but both sides should hunker down and take what they can get as soon as possible.  I know they probably won't.  We may share the same planet, but I don't think we breathe the same air.

Filed in: | Petshark: Talking Stick | Permalink
  Tags: lockout, nhl+cba, nhlpa, pay+cut


alukacs's avatar

I would love to know what NHLPA members think about other labor disputes. Will Toews picket with the Chicago teachers next week? How about the Leafs players support the CAW during labor talks with Ford?

I am all for the player union, but I would also like to see it as a political organization (as unions supposed to be) and have some solidarity with millions of people - unionized or not - who are living in a society where job-security is non-existent and pay cuts, unemployment and underemployment is the reality of everyday life.

Additionally, I would like the NHLPA address vendors and service workers who really depend on those $8/hour game-day jobs… and the European players who will be temporarily replaced so the NHL “stars” can have a little fun overseas…

Posted by alukacs on 09/16/12 at 05:19 PM ET

alukacs's avatar

I agree with the NHLPA and support the players. I strongly believe that those contracts   should be honoured. I never said (not here, elsewhere on this site or other social media) that the players are greedy or unworthy of their contracts.

I did not see any Unions supporting the NHLPA - you are right about that. Maybe other unions just don’t see pro-athletes are their brothers and sisters (and vice versa to be honest)... maybe the last week the union movement was more focused on Chicago…

Which brings me to your third point: solidarity and union support for Chicago. Yes, FoP was present yesterday (http://bit.ly/OsOtRn) - local Chicago unions are on board, LA teachers union marched in solidarity. There is international support as well.

Anyhow, I might be overly critical of the NHLPA, just like I am with all unions. Because I believe in them and I am a union man… you know, “an injury to one is an injury to all”.

I am not sure how the Yaroslavl accident undermines my point that NHL players will fill roster spots abroad (which is great for hockey fans and those leagues)... not so great for those cut.

All in all, I just wanted to take my newborn son to see the Red Wings when visiting the US next time, and that option is gone…

Posted by alukacs on 09/16/12 at 07:32 PM ET

petshark's avatar

HockeytownOverhaul—The notion of trying to change the deal half way through is at once offensive and perfectly plausible these days.  The idea that anyone would sign a contract fully intending to not honor it boggles the mind, it runs counter to the idea of making agreements in good faith.  Yet my cynical mind says “yeah, what else is new?”  It’s all awful, stupid, self-indulgent and very irksome.

Still, playing overseas might be good for some of these guys, and the AHL will certainly start the season with a new look!  Optimism is good for you.

Posted by petshark from Nor Cal, and on Twitter @petshark47 on 09/16/12 at 09:00 PM ET


Maybe it’s pressure to become a partner and invest in the firm, even though you know you will have much less in your pocket at the end of the year.  Maybe you’re offered stock options instead of cash.

And this the comparison used to make the players seem out of touch?

I am glad the NHLPA is not a politicized union. I don’t want large corporations or unions contributing more to the public discourse than they already are.

Posted by hockey1919 from mid-atlantic on 09/17/12 at 09:04 AM ET

Joe Z.'s avatar

I love people saying that taking pay cuts is happening to every employee in america and the nhlpa and the players should stop bitching. guess what, people who let their employers threat them like they do have noone else but themselves to blame. stand up and fight for your rights. especially you americans should know it better, it’s seems some of you forgot how g. washington fought for your freedom.

Posted by Joe Z. from Austria on 09/17/12 at 09:40 AM ET

petshark's avatar

hockey1919—I’ve never been in that position, but it has been going on for even longer than people being asked to take wage cuts.  It’s just an example of how being asked to take less than originally agreed has been done a lot for some time now.  The frustrating thing is, the NHLPA can’t force the NHL into better business practices.  All they can do is resist salary cuts, keep the pressure on, and hope the NHL sees the light.  Unfortunately, I don’t think they have the leverage to force that.

Joe Z- Fair point, but if you consider how the high standard of living in the US and other developed nations has relied on very low standards of living in other places, the shift to a more balanced global economy is going to sting.  I believe such a transition is necessary, I believe it is fair, but I don’t believe we’ll do it in a nice, tidy, painless way.  I bet the Brits felt some of this same discomfort when Washington helped the US break away;)

Posted by petshark from Nor Cal, and on Twitter @petshark47 on 09/17/12 at 11:27 AM ET

Joe Z.'s avatar

question remains who’s good old george and who’s the empire grin
i agree on your balancing out theory. if i would have a word in the lockout negotiations, i’d suggest to continue playing under the current cba aslong the nhlpa don’t agree to a 50/50 cut. the catch for the nhlpa would be no new nhl contracts for players until a new cba is establsihed.if players decide to play elsewhere their contracts will expire and the talent level will decline.so will revenues. so both sides are forced to move at some point.

nhl players are performing artists not the average joe. everything off the ice is showbizz the fan is allowed to see. aslong one justin bieber get’s 22 mio. anually, i’m fine with a 50/50 share for nhl players. ‘cause somehow i still hope this all is just a bad marketing show. the season will start on time with a new cba and the focus get’s back to where it belongs, the game.

Posted by Joe Z. from Austria on 09/17/12 at 07:30 PM ET


I guess not everyone realizes companies have been doing just that—asking employees to take pay cuts—for years now.

I’d be curious if you could find a single company, enjoying unprecented financial success, that has asked for every single employee to take an x% pay cut.  After, several years ago, asking the employees to do exactly that same thing, and winning.

Some departments will do better than others, but the company is asking that every single employee in every single department -that is, the ones making money hand over fist no matter how much they spend, the ones breaking even, and the ones that lose money no matter how much they cut costs- to take the same pay cut.  Not because the company is losing money, it isn’t, but because some departments are losing money.

Seriously, when does that happen?

Posted by Garth on 09/17/12 at 11:25 PM ET

petshark's avatar

Garth- Of course that would only happen in union negotiations.  Without a union to go to, employers negotiate with each employee individually.  And I’m not saying the NHL is justified in the cuts, I think I said they are not only unjustified but that it’s also a short-sighted move.

Posted by petshark from Nor Cal, and on Twitter @petshark47 on 09/18/12 at 11:54 AM ET

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About Petshark: Talking Stick

Native of Northern California.  Hockey fan since 1998... sort of... there's a hiatus in there that I still can't explain.

I want to know about anything and everything related to the sport and the spectacle.  I watch, I react, I write it down.

My interest in the Sharks was initially a matter of geographic convenience and regional loyalty because that seemed to be how it worked.  I had no prior interest (at all-- AT ALL) in professional sports of any kind.  When I met hockey, it might have set off a chain reaction of general sports fandom.  It hasn't, I don't think it will.  At all.

Since then, that interest developed into full blown (mostly sort of usually almost completely) exclusive loyalty to the Sharks.

I started blogging a couple years ago on wordpress. I still occasionally put things there that I don't think fit here because they are not about the Sharks. Wherever my words wander, here on Kuklas Korner, they will (usually) hang on to a teal thread.

I can be found in cyberspace on Twitter @petshark47, or emailed at talkingstick@petshark.net