A Stones Throw 7-17-14

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I am thinking about suing past, current, and future owners of the Vevay Newspapers.

This is the 428th ‘A Stones Throw’ that I have written for the Vevay Newspapers. It is also the 428th column that I have not been paid to write.

Surely I have the right to expect – make that demand – payment at least at minimum wage. And, since I usually spend three to four hours researching and writing each column, it would only seem fair to expect $30 or more for each column.

Four hundred twenty eight times $30.

Maybe since ‘A Stones Throw’ covers a period of 10 years, I should demand punitive damages of at least a couple of million dollars.

Then, maybe I can get other Vevay Newspaper columnists to join my lawsuit.

Maybe I could – but I won’t.

I think the facts are important. And, in the case of ‘A Stones Throw’, the fact is that I approached the Vevay newspapers and asked if they would accept and print my column. The fact is I have written 428 columns (I am counting those written by Shadow as being mine.) because I enjoy writing them.

The fact is, I have never expected payment for any of my columns. And, even if I decided I should be paid going forward, I have the right to ask for payment and the Vevay Media Group has the right to agree – or disagree – with my request.

There is a difference between asking for something in the future versus trying to change what was agreed to in the past.

Those type of facts don’t seem to matter much in today’s world. It seems that a new lawsuit is filed every other day that demands back pay plus penalties even though payment terms were understood.

A couple of cases in point have occurred in the world of sports – the world I enjoy the most.

• Several months ago the Oakland Raiders cheerleaders, the ‘Raiderettes’, sued the Oakland Raiders demanding back pay for all of the practices, charity events, and other activities where they were required to participate.

Both current and former Raiderettes charged the Raiders with “wage theft and other unfair labor practices.”

Last week the team and the Raiderettes settled part of their lawsuit. As a result, Raiderettes will be paid the California minimum wage of $9 an hour for all practice time, game time, and other required activities. Based on time evaluations, each Raiderette will receive $3,000 per season.

At the same time, the lawsuit will continue to determine if former and current cheerleaders should receive back pay and additional compensation.

To me the answer is simple:

No.

I have no problem with the Raiderettes asking for, even demanding, additional pay to compensate for practices and promotional appearances – going forward. But I do have a problem with those who accepted terms of employment deciding, after the fact, that they deserved more.

I also have a problem with those in the media who have made income comparisons that are not comparable.

For instance, while the agreement is to pay a Raiderette $3,000 a season, a member of the Oakland Raiders practice squad will make the same amount of money in 3 1/2 days. And, Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler will make the same amount of money in 10 seconds.

These comparisons have absolutely no relevance. To accept them as relevant to one another would be the same as accepting a comparison between the salary of a Switzerland County Commissioner and the salary of the President of the United States.

Or, a janitor at Microsoft with Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

In other words, the question should be “are the current and future Raiderettes happy with the pay they will receive going forward?”

And, if they are not, they do not have to try-out to be a Raiderette. There will be several hundred others who will try-out and will be happy with the pay.

• This is also true of young boys and men who aspire to become major league baseball players. Unlike other major sports, baseball has a minor league development program that allows each player to develop and progress to his maximum ability.

Except for the very few, most players will start at the Low A minor league level – or even playing for an Independent team like the Florence Freedom in Florence, Kentucky. In either event, the pay for players at those levels is extremely small. In many cases, if not most, the pay does not approach minimum wage when all time and effort is considered.

Still, those who play the game at this level are playing for a dream – not just a paycheck. They are playing to progress to levels that pay better – then to levels that pay significantly better – and finally to a level that pays millions of dollars a year.

A dream? – Yes.

A realistic dream? – Not for many.

But, many must follow their dream – even if the pay is minimal. They accept the terms. They chase the dream.

At least that was until last week.

Last week, Aaron Senne and many other former minor league baseball players sued Minor League Baseball for the low salaries they received during their playing time. These players did not succeed in finding their dream. For some it was because of injury – for others it was because of ability.

Regardless, they never grasped the brass ring. They never obtained the high salaries of those who succeeded in achieving their dream.

And now they want to be paid – Again!

Only a lot more.

The lawsuit headed by Aaron Senne demands millions of dollars in back pay claiming the pay players received was less than minimum wage when all factors are considered.

I certainly agree that low minor league level players deserve to make more money than they do, I disagree with the demands of back pay after the fact. These players knew the terms of employment when they decided to chase their dream. They knew they had to progress to higher levels to earn higher incomes.

If this lawsuit, or the Raiderettes lawsuit, results in back pay to those who had originally agreed to terms of employment, what is to keep any worker in America from suing their company for additional back pay if he/she has not been promoted through the ranks and obtained significantly higher pay.

The answer is simple.

Absolutely nothing.

I can’t think of anything that can be more detrimental to our economy. Why should employers of any type hire people at lower levels when there is always the chance they will sue for more money after the fact several years later?

They shouldn’t.

So, what to do?

The obvious answer is to outsource even more jobs to foreign countries.

An answer I don’t want to see. But, an answer that makes sense.

What makes more sense though, is to eliminate the ability to introduce lawsuits designed to change past accepted terms of employment. I have no problem with asking for additional compensation for today and tomorrow.

But, not for yesterday.

– Mike Cooney