Making a Difference: Holding penalty on the NFL

Catholic San Francisco |  By Tony Magliano  | February, 23 2011 |  Share  | Source Article

February 16th, 2011

By Tony Magliano 

Click here to view the source article.

Although the Pittsburgh Steelers lost the Super Bowl, they won a bowl full of money. Each player received a bonus of over $40,000.

In the National Football League, nobody loses.

Players on average make approximately $1.9 million per year – with a median income $790,000 in 2009. Most head coaches bring home over $2 million. And team owners’ average income is reported to be around $33 million.

But all this wealth partly comes at the expense of some very impoverished El Salvadoran workers – the real losers – who are being crushed by the NFL.

The National Labor Committee’s director, Charles Kernaghan, explained to me that at the Ocean Sky sweatshop in El Salvador, where NFL T-shirts are sewn for Reebok – the NFL’s official uniform provider – workers report being drenched in their own sweat, since afternoon factory temperatures reach 98 degrees.

Kernaghan said, the 1,500 workers – mostly women – are constantly cursed at and humiliated. Factory drinking water is filthy and contaminated.

He added that women are paid just eight cents for every $25 NFL T-shirt they sew, meaning their wages amount to just three-tenths of one percent of the NFL’s retail price.

Unions and collective bargaining – enjoyed by the NFL – are harshly prohibited.

“These oppressed workers, and their families, are trapped in misery,” said Kernaghan.

“If the NFL doubled the women’s wages to just 16 cents per shirt, this tiny raise in income would at least lift these workers out of misery and into poverty.”

Surely, we’re all in agreement that the NFL and Reebok could at least do this much.

The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace’s “Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church” insists that “Labor has an intrinsic priority over capital” (No. 277). Workers have rights to a safe and healthy workplace, to adequate rest, to a pension, to insurance for unemployment and sickness, to maternity pay, to assemble and form associations, and to a just wage.

“These rights are often infringed, as is confirmed by the sad fact of workers who are underpaid and without protection or adequate representation. It often happens that work conditions for men, women and children, especially in developing countries, are so inhumane that they are an offense to their dignity and compromise their health” (No. 301).

It’s time we penalize the NFL and all greedy corporations for holding – holding back extremely impoverished workers from gaining their basic human and labor rights.

Please log onto the National Labor Committee ( and sign their petition to the U.S. government regarding the Ocean Sky sweatshop.

And please take just a little more time to write to: Ambassador Ronald Kirk, Office of the United States Trade Representative, 600 17th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20508.

Urge him to investigate and correct the serious abuses suffered by workers at the Ocean Sky sweatshop in El Salvador, where according to the National Labor Committee, workers are denied basic labor rights that are written into, and supposedly guaranteed by the U.S.-Central American Free Trade Agreement.

Also request that he demand of every corporation doing business in Central America, full compliance with all labor rights standards written into the U.S.-Central American Free Trade Agreement.

Let’s help impoverished workers win their struggle for labor rights with greedy corporations.

Let’s work to ensure that oppressed apparel workers in El Salvador finally gain an equal playing field with the NFL.

Tony Magliano writes a column on social justice for Catholic News Service.


From February 18, 2011 issue of Catholic San Francisco.