Independent contractors-similarities between celebrities and the average worker

The topic of workers’ compensation for athletes is an interesting one. When you consider that some athletes are technically independent contractors, workers’ compensation shifts from interesting to equal parts hazy and dangerous. With the 2016 football season well underway and the recent excitement over several anticipated UFC fights, one might question what happens if their favorite fighter or linebacker gets seriously injured after stepping into their respective battleground.

Take for example that football players in the NFL are employees but for certain teams, their cheerleaders are independent contractors. In this situation, the cheerleaders are not covered under the same workers’ compensation policies as the football players. Wrestlers for the entertainment company WWE and fighters for mixed martial arts promotional company UFC are both classified as independent contractors as well. If they get hurt, they are not subject to the benefits provided by workers’ compensation-medical care, compensation for recovery time, etc. This is done through their own medical insurance and they can not file a claim against their company for workers’ compensation or, in a worse case scenario, social security disability.

In respect to the fighting networks, this seems especially controversial. The fact that they are independent contractors takes a lot of responsibility and liability off the shoulders of the entity signing them.  In January of this year, WWE wrestler Nikki Bella underwent critical surgery on several vertebrae in her neck. The surgery was needed after a long history of repeating one specific move in the ring. She was in recovery for over 6 months, and it looked extremely likely that this would have been a career-ending injury. Swap out the celebrity and entertainment factors, and it’s what most normal independent contractors are concerned with when they go to work-house painters, Uber drivers, some electricians and plumbers, freelancers, and the like. Nikki Bella’s neck surgery could have been the average persons carpal tunnel, auditory issues, respiratory problems, or otherwise. However, actions are being taken to start protecting these kinds of workers. A bill was passed recently to protect freelancers living in New York City from wage theft.

The question of medical care for injuries is not the only thing that can be worrisome for this type of worker. They are under no obligation to be afforded the same rights as an employee would be, period. In an article on CNN Money, a group of fighters from UFC have attempted to sue the company for overreaching their authority over the individuals they contract, and treating them the way they would if the fighters were employees. In a lucky development for the fighters, UFC recently lost their appeal to have the anti-trust lawsuit thrown out. This same article states that UFC fighters and certain teams’ cheerleaders have a history of trying to unionize-albeit unsuccessfully.

Please see the article below for more information.

UFC fighters get in the ring, but they’re not employees

Former NFL players sue the league demanding workers’ compensation for brain injuries

DC 37 teams up with CCNY to offer classes for workers

The City College of New York’s dean of the Division of Interdisciplinary Studies and the Recruitment Coordinator at the Center for Worker Education have recently partnered with District Council 37 to provide credit-weighted classes to the Union’s workers. The College is offering courses in computer skills through the DC 37 Educational Fund. The fund was founded in 1971 and since then has worked with several colleges to provide classes for union members. They are also partnered with Industrial and Labor Relations School of Cornell and CUNY’S Murphy Institute, offering a 16 credit program in Public Sector Labor Relations, as well as offering their members classes at the College of New Rochelle, which has a DC-37 Campus and is the only labor-based college in the US. The Educational Fund also offers business courses in Accounting, several foreign language courses, and more. The CCNY’s Center for Worker Education and DC 37 are providing courses in basic computer programs that are widely used in professional settings, such as those in Microsoft Office. According to the CCNY website, the CWE and DC 37’s plan is to have these courses held past the fall into the winter and spring semesters. Get your textbooks ready, DC 37 members! Classes begin just after the new year. More information can be found on their website, as well as the application form for the program. Although this isn’t the first time the union has partnered with a college, this is the first time they have partnered with CCNY.

DC 37 is the City’s largest public employee union, representing over 40 unions and well over tens of thousands of workers.