There’s this saying I heard one time about a millionaire who asks an average joe for a dollar so he can buy a soda out of a vending machine. The average joe has no problem handing over the dollar to the millionaire, but he’s curious. “If you’re a millionaire,” the average joe asks, “then why don’t you just pay for it yourself?”
The millionaire then responds and asks: “How do you think I became a millionaire?”
It’s a dumb little routine, but it resonates. You have the slick millionaire who’s a cheap ass, and you have the regular person who’s decent and just wants to help. Things like that seem to make my ears perk up whenever I hear them, probably for no reason other than society worships money and those who have all of it. And society tends to shit on those who don’t have it.
I’ve been singing the same tune on this blog pretty much since its inception, whether it’s been billionaire sports owners fleecing taxpayers into funding their new stadiums, sports leagues withholding information about concussions and CTE, and all the way through Bernie Sanders campaigning in both 2015 and 2019. Whenever I write about the macro struggle, it is generally always the class war between the top .1% and everyone else.
Amazon workers in Alabama are trying to unionize
I’ve written before about how if Amazon and Wal-Mart employees in the United States formed unions it would literally change the world. Finally, Amazon workers in Alabama are giving us our first real shot of realizing such a dream.
Unsurprisingly the founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, won’t let this one go without a fight. As Senator Bernie Sanders said before visiting the Alabama workers: “All I want to know is why the richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos, is spending millions trying to prevent workers from organizing a union so they can negotiate for better wages, benefits and working conditions.”
Bernie has taken the lead on virtually every labor issue since the financial crash of 2008, and was responsible for why in 2018 Amazon workers got their minimum wage raised to $15 an hour in the first place. Along with some cosponsors, a few years ago Sanders drafted legislation to force Bezos to pay for all the government assistance his workers required. Knowing it would cost him less money to raise wages to $15 an hour, the billionaire tycoon capitulated.
While that was surely a positive, Amazon never fixed the fundamental problems with its low-wage workers. Despite the increase to $15 an hour working conditions never meaningfully improved, as there have been numerous accounts of drivers in a crunch for time having to piss in water bottles, of having in some places 55 hour work weeks, and of Amazon paying to have ambulances outside their warehouses because they didn’t want to waste money installing an air conditioner.
Amazon’s response to Alabama workers having a vote of whether or not to unionize has been about as expected. Twitter has deleted a bunch of dummy accounts of people pretending to be happy Amazon workers, and its PR Twitter account has gone on the attack against Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
I usually don’t hold my breath when it comes to union votes, but I respect the Alabama workers who have the potential to lead the charge against arguably the most powerful corporation on the planet. I always find it kind of funny that workers in the South, in some of the poorest states in the country, are the ones at the tip of the sword in showing everyone how it’s done. The same thing happened a few years back when teachers in West Virginia went on strike for better pay and working conditions. Shortly thereafter it spread to Oklahoma, Colorado, Arizona and California.
I’d like to think, regardless if Alabama’s workers win this labor war, that it will inspire a similar brush fire throughout all the Amazon warehouses across the country. I feel that New York and California get all the credit for being the most progressive states in the country. But then I wonder if maybe the living conditions in those places are so much better for the average person than states like Alabama and West Virginia — as two recent examples — and so workers there reach the point where they have nothing to lose a lot quicker.
Shortstop Francisco Lindor agrees to 10-year, $341 million deal with the New York Mets
This deal went through within the last hour, but I meant to write about it because for a while there it was looking iffy. Francisco Lindor is one of the best players in Major League Baseball, and up until about the time I opened my computer he and his team were balking at the 10-year, $325 million offer that was on the table. One of the baseball insiders, ESPN’s Jeff Passan, wrote about an hour ago that “The Mets made what the industry sees as a strong offer. Lindor clearly believes he’s worth more.”
Ultimately the deal got done, so my point here has become moot, but labor struggles happen even in places where the labor is being paid tens of millions of dollars per year. Naturally in cases like these the general population, common fans, side with the billionaire owners over the millionaire players. They do this because most people have shitty jobs that pay them less than they are worth, and they see players like Lindor griping over an extra $16 million over a ten-year span ($1.6 million per year).
While I get that view, I also see that if an owner is willing to pay a player $34.1 million average annual value, it means that owner and organization are probably raking in significantly more. Thinking about the tens of millions of dollars owners get through merchandise sales, concessions, ticket sales, television revenue, and everything else, paying $34.1 million per year for one of the best players in the game is a bargain.
And if you want to know who exactly the Mets owner is — the guy who is going to be writing all the checks — it’s a guy named Steve Cohen. Cohen has more money than god, as does every other owner of a major sporting franchise, and a couple months ago he dumped $3 billion into Melvin Capital during the short squeeze of GameStop. I remember the day he did it, because at the time I was feverishly buying shares of the stock that eventually made its way to $480 per share before dipping to about one-tenth of that price.
Long story short, the $3 billion Steve Cohen pumped into Melvin Capital got lit on fire in a matter of minutes. $3 billion dollars. That’s $3,000,000,000, or three thousand millions. It’s an unconscionable amount of money, and it disappeared the same way your $15 blackjack bet disappeared when you hit your 16.
The point is, $341 million over a ten-year span is a lot of money. But just to put into perspective how much money it is, the guy who is going to be paying that $341 million over ten years lost ten times that amount in a matter of about ten minutes a couple months ago. You might ask why Francisco Lindor and his agents were haggling over an additional $1.6 million per year. The real question, I think, is why Steve Cohen cared about it so much.
The NFL is going to a 17 game season
Earlier this week the NFL said they would be increasing from a 16-game season to 17 — eliminating one week of preseason football. This comes at the heels of the league agreeing to a new media deal that will net them a whopping $110 billion over the next 10 years.
The switch from 16 games to 17 generated some understandable backlash from players, including Saints’ running back Alvin Kamara who said it was “dumb as hell,” as now there will be an extra week of wear and tear, an extra week for players to go down with injury, and an extra week of risk on top of what is already an incredibly grueling schedule.
The financial side of things seems to be a little more cut and dry. As far as I know, but don’t quote me on it, every player will receive an extra game check commensurate to the salary that player is making. And it will be paid in the form of a bonus such that it won’t affect the team against the salary cap. So if a player is making $16 million per year, he will be cut a bonus for $1 million for the 17th game. If a player is making $1.6 million, he will get a check for $100,000.
Still, this is part of the reason why I was rooting for a labor war between the Players Association and owners when the last CBA ran out. NFL owners just agreed to a TV deal that’s going to pay out $11 billion per year over the next decade, an average of roughly $340 million per team every year. The NFL salary cap itself is only $182 million this coming season, and counting (again) ticket sales, merchandise and concessions, we are talking about a sweet fucking deal for the owners.
The players, meanwhile, aren’t going to be seeing any of that money. They get an extra paycheck, which is fine, but it pales in comparison to the extra revenue owners are receiving. If the owners are willing to concede an extra bonus check for all of the 53 players who suit up for a 17th game, it obviously means they are going to make 10 times that amount from all the added revenue I already mentioned. In a gladiator sport, this is an absolute coup for the fat cats at the top and another reason why a player’s career is going to be shortened.
As a fan, I know I’m going to love having an extra game. I love the NFL so much that it would take something extreme happening before I stopped watching. I only write the things I write because I try to look at things objectively — not as a working class person who has no idea what it would feel like to get cut a check for a million bucks — and from where I sit I can only imagine how I would feel being in the shoes of a player who is making pennies on the dollar working for an owner that is laughing all the way to the bank.