I hope that the summer is ending on a high note for you and yours!
The huge news from this week, which is not receiving appropriate national attention in my opinion, is that democracy has returned to the Democratic Party. This past weekend, the DNC decided to strip superdelegates – officeholders and party officials – of much of their influence in the presidential nomination process. They did this because Bernie Sanders supporters were angry that the DNC favored Hillary Clinton in 2016 and that the popular vote was not the sole determinant of who won the nomination.
I can’t tell you how many times people have said to me, “They will never let you win,” referring to Democratic party insiders who have established loyalties and relationships. Well, it turns out the insiders have relinquished their decision-making authority to determine the nominee – it truly is going to be about who the people of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada, etc. choose to represent them and their concerns. My time in Iowa and New Hampshire in particular have demonstrated to me that the people there are hungry for real solutions that will genuinely improve their lives. They are tired of politics as usual and excited for something new.
History has given us an opening. Let’s take full advantage of it.
I’ve spent part of the last several days helping a union get organized. But probably not in the way that you think.
I recently got connected to a woman named Leslie Smith. Leslie is a professional mixed martial arts fighter. She is one of the best in the world – she was ranked top 10 in her division in the UFC earlier this year.
Leslie noticed that she and her fellow fighters were not getting paid as much as athletes in other sports – fighters get paid as little as $12k per fight and fight 2 – 3 times per year. Meanwhile the UFC signed a new deal with ESPN worth $300 million a year and its CEO, Dana White, recently said the company was worth $7 billion. Fighters are getting paid just 10 – 15% of revenue, much less than the 47-51% prevalent in the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL. Leslie decided to start a union and asked fellow fighters to sign up.
Dana White didn’t like this. So he fired Leslie Smith in April.
Leslie rightfully said, “I’m a top 10 fighter and I didn’t lose a fight. This is because I’m trying to start a union.” So she filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board in Philadelphia, which agreed that she had grounds for action.
Dana White got wind of this and realized that Leslie could be a big problem – his company relies on keeping fighter pay low. So he went to his friend of fifteen years, Donald Trump, and met with him in the Oval Office. Around the same time, the NLRB action was pulled into Washington DC away from the Philadelphia region that had approved Leslie’s action. They now are stonewalling and won’t respond to Leslie’s lawyer.
Yes, Donald Trump has decided to keep UFC fighters from having a chance to organize and keep Leslie out of work.
It gets even more interesting – the UFC was bought by William Morris Endeavor, the giant Hollywood talent agency, 2 years ago for $4 billion. This mammoth pricetag assumed that the new owners would be able to keep fighter costs low. WME, eager to get some cash into the business, sold shares to 23 of its celebrity clients, including Serena Williams, Jimmy Kimmel, Mark Wahlberg, Ben Affleck, Adam Levine, Cam Newton, Tom Brady, Robert Kraft, Venus Williams, The Weeknd, Anthony Kiedis, Tyler Perry, Trey Parker and more.
How would Serena Williams or Jimmy Kimmel react to the knowledge that their investment depends upon Donald Trump helping keep Leslie Smith out of work? Their agents likely didn’t explain to them that the UFC’s valuation relies on paying fighters 80% less than they are worth and keeping them from organizing.
Some might see this whole issue as marginal in the scheme of things, as it only affects hundreds of people in a niche sport.
But to me, it’s an emblem of what’s gone wrong with our society. You have the capital holders – Dana White, William Morris Endeavor – operating to enrich themselves at the expense of human beings who are doing the work. You have Donald Trump’s corrupt intervention in a case that clearly should be moving forward. You have Leslie Smith, a woman who tried to do the right thing for her fellow fighters, being punished for her actions and being ignored and pushed into economic oblivion. And you have a sport that should evolve to take care of its stakeholders and modernize instead of attacking anyone who tries to push it in the right direction.
I’m going to do all I can to help Leslie. I’ve donated to her legal defense fund for starters (you can donate here) and plan to do much more.
My plan is to get Leslie her job back. We’re going to help her show Donald Trump that he messed with the wrong woman.
Happy Labor Day weekend to you all. I’m heading to DC on Saturday for a conference and then to Iowa for a Labor Day rally. Hope you have a wonderful time with your friends and families on the last days of Summer. Going to be a big Fall – enjoy these days while you can.
Your grateful candidate,