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NFL players opposed to right-to-work

Last modified: 2/4/2012 12:00:00 AM
Granite Staters have a lot of things to be proud of: their magnificent Seacoast and White Mountains, their position as the first presidential primary state in America and the AFC Champion New England Patriots. But most important, they're proud of their 'Live Free or Die' tradition. And they've shown that they'll fight to keep their freedoms safe.

Last year, thousands of New Hampshire families came together to defeat a 'right-to-work' bill pushed by out-of-state special interests that would have jeopardized the freedom of workers to organize as a team to protect, preserve and promote themselves as employees in a workplace, where management can always outspend workers and target individuals.

Now the Republican leadership in New Hampshire has announced its intent to launch the same old right-to-work bill that failed last year. This blatant attack on freedom not only runs counter to the voices of thousands of Granite Staters - it runs against every lesson that my brothers in the NFL and I learned during the NFL lockout last year.

NFL players learned lessons that most older American workers learned decades ago: namely, that all of the protections that employees currently have in the workplace resulted from the ability of workers to stand together as a team, protect their rights and demand change for the better. It is a lesson that many of us have not only forgotten but, worse yet, simply never learned.

The protections that millions of workers possess today, including fair pensions, workplace safety innovations, management supported health-care plans and compliance with occupational health standards, were achieved by thousands of workers standing together as one over decades to fight for those vital standards. An indisputable lesson of our American history is that none of those workplace protections came as a gift from corporations; rather, all of them resulted from the freedom of workers to stand united and demand change when it would have been easy to fire or silence the voice of a single worker. The history is also clear that, even when employees fought as a team, some of them paid a dear price for organizing and demanding fairness. This bill would make future efforts even harder than they are today.

The assault on employees comes disguised in proposed legislation deviously named 'right-to-work.' The reason every employee should have concern is that it simply is not what it claims to be. The right-to-work bill is not a constitutional amendment guaranteeing a citizen a job. Rather, it is simply designed to hurt the freedom of employees to form teams that can go 'toe-to-toe' with management in the hope of having a fair negotiation over issues that matter to working people.

In this time of challenging economic conditions, where there are efforts to divide all of us, we have an obligation to move beyond the rhetoric and know the issues. The legislation may have a catchy title, but that is all it provides to men and women who work for a living. If you support this bill, do so by recognizing and calling it what it is: 'the elimination of the freedom to negotiate strongly and fairly with your employer' legislation.

We oppose this bill and stand in strong support of what needs to be every employee's freedom to be a member of a team to protect and preserve their rights for themselves and their families.

(DeMaurice Smith is executive director of the National Football League Players Association.)


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