Wrestler unions

The latest observer mentions that sgt slaughter tried to form a Union in 85. I was not previously aware of this. I knew Jesse Ventura was fired after trying to unionize (with hogan reporting it to vince). Was slaughter’s attempt similar to Jesse’s or less organized? And was he also ‘told on’ by hogan or did someone else notify Vince?

Also, Are there any other attempts since 1980 where a wrestler attempted to unionize the locker room (either in WWF, WCW, or one of the other prominent groups back then)? I imagine the actions of promoters like Jerry Jarrett might have caused low paid workers to try and organize.

The main issue is that wrestlers and promoters all tend to be a bunch self serving wanks who can’t agree on ordering coffee at a coffee shop. So it’s inevitable that one person talks union and then another stooges them out to further their own career. Plus, especially in the case of Jerry Jarrett, this isn’t exactly super skilled labor he was using. As long as Jerry Lawler was still around the entire undercard was basically replaceable and easily fired anyway. And everyone knew it.

As for Slaughter, I don’t know the specifics because they didn’t come up at the time he was originally fired. The 84 issues treated it more like a contract dispute.

  • Matt Johnson

    I’d always heard that Slaughter’s firing was over him wanting a bigger cut of merchandise or something like that. He had a sweet deal with GI Joe and was trying to get a similar deal with Vince.

  • Stan Ford

    The problem with a wrestler’s union is the same problem with unions in general.

    Beyond the “ratting out” and blackballing concerns, the people who stand to actually benefit from a union have no pull to actually form one. The people who have the pull to actually form one have no need for one because they wouldn’t really benefit from it.

    Curtis Axel would benefit from a union, but if he tried to start one, he’d just get released the next time he showed up late or changed a flight or used the wrong shitter in the locker room or whatever the fuck.

    If Cena tried to start a union, they’d be in a rock/hard place scenario, but Cena would be doing it as a purely benevolent gesture (and risking his own historical rep in the process) as all the problems a union would address (health care, job security, wages, etc.) are things Cena has absolutely zero worries about.

    • brak_attack

      I remember reading a comment from somebody — I want to say it was Jim Ross, which would be surprisingly dangerous given his former role with the company — basically saying that a union would never happen because, ultimately, all wrestlers are self serving and would never agree to the terms of the union.

      • Stan Ford

        I can see that, too, yeah. A union, after all, is meant to give the members collective bargaining power, but a guy like Randy Orton probably doesn’t want a guy like Kalisto to have equal bargaining power. Nothing personal, just professional.

        And if Kalisto wants to go on strike, would everyone else agree to pass up on pay for him? Probably not.

        • ARRRRGH THE BARBARIAN

          The walkout was the shootiest worked shoot ever. Everyone took off except the top babyfaces, who make the most money. They had a match and everyone came crawling back

    • spicollidriver

      how is what you mention in the first paragraph a “problem with unions in general”?

      • Stan Ford

        That those who don’t need what a union will provide to everyone have no reason to fight for one is a problem with unions in general.

        • Paul Moseley

          I also wondered about your statement, and that has helped to clarify.

          • Paul Moseley

            The other problem with unions (and this is from experience of a union) is that non members are happy for you to fight for pay and conditions which benefit them – but not sign up because it would cost them.

          • Stan Ford

            Yeah. What a “union” is, what membership in it entails and what benefits it provides can vary an awful lot from union to union, even in the same line of work.

            To establish one from scratch for ALL pro wrestlers sounds like a fucking nightmare and that’s before you take into account how most workers, like Scott said, would shiv a dude in the kidney for an extra $200 and a month of guaranteed bookings.

    • Hmmm…sounds like a parallel to the world, not just WWE.

  • Wasn’t that the reason Ventura hated Hogan?

  • And A Diddly New Year

    Mankind unionized a few disgruntled wrestlers against the Corporate Ministry

  • Comdukakis

    For years I heard about the union thing. It was only recent years I heard it was about merchandising and action figures

    • HartKiller_09

      Like everyone gets a cut of everyone’s merchandise?

      • Comdukakis

        no, the way I heard it Slaughter pissed off Vince by cutting his own deal with GI Joe for an action figure as opposed to taking the small amount Vince gave all his guys for the LJN figures that were being produced (or in process of being proved). But I’m assuming different guys got more than others for the LJN line. I have never heard anything specific beyond it was a dispute about Vince wanting to control his talent’s outside deals and Slaughter telling him to take a flying leap since he was getting paid well for the Joe deal.

  • razor172

    If it’s really just entertainment like Vince wants it to be all these guys would have SAG cards. But nobody wants to stand up against against the only game in town and Linda just got appointed to a cabinet position under Trump as an administrator of small business while married to guy who abuses the term independent contractor.

  • thejob111

    Even outside of unionizing it would be nice if the talent were treated as normal employees with benefits and retirement..etc…etc..etc..

    But that ship seems to have sailed

    • Comdukakis

      this.

      Yeah unionizing seems a longshot since even businesses where collective bargaining makes logical sense are being deunionized or voting down unions. But the independent contractor moniker is both a misnomer and a tax/responsibility dodge. Vince wants to control his talent (read Jericho’s 3rd book where Vince got super upset that Jericho dare get a game show gig without consulting Vince and going through WWE), their bookings (none of the main guys is allowed to work indie shows), and yet not pay employment taxes, health insurance (he does employ more than the minimum for the tax penalty on the ACA if they were not “independent contractors”), nor pay for certain travel related costs.

      Try to challenge the law and you get blackballed and you get to deal with federal courts filled with business friendly judges or a state court in Connecticut that is WWE friendly.

      I guess to their credit I believe WWE does pay for treatment for in ring injuries now, but so-called nagging injuries from wear and tear end up on the wrestler’s dime is they get diagnosed as needing a knee surgery or something rather than a specific incident such as Finn Balor being injured by Rollins.

      • Supermark25

        If someone tried to fight it, and had a case, Vince would drive a dump truck of money to the person’s house to settle. No way he wants his dirty little secret in the news. Black balled, sure, a Loser probably not.

  • Ray Rosini Jr.

    Jesse Ventura wasn’t fired technically, After WM 2 he took 3-4 months off to film Predator then came back just as WWF Superstars debuted in the fall of 86′ Sept actually.

  • Timothy Byrne

    The WWE has, for this reason, minimised (as far as possible) the important of individual performers. This reduces the leverage of any performer (or group of performers) in negotiations.

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