Teamsters announce plan to organize UFC fighters

UNITE HERE has announced an initiative alongside the Teamsters to try and organize MMA fighters in the Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC). UNITE HERE has…

By: John S. Nash | 8 years ago
Teamsters announce plan to organize UFC fighters
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

UNITE HERE has announced an initiative alongside the Teamsters to try and organize MMA fighters in the Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC).

UNITE HERE has had an acrimonious relationship with the UFC, thanks largely to the efforts of an affiliated branch, Culinary Union 226, attempts to unionize the Fertitta’s Station Casinos. Failure to legalize MMA in New York and websites critical of the UFC and Zuffa, including UFC = Unfit for Children and Zuffa Investors Alert are examples of some of the actions that have been credited to the Union.

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters is one of the larges labor organizations in the North America  with approximately 1.3 million members in the US and Canada.

The Teamsters also confirmed to me yesterday that members of Teamsters Local 986 in California, the same branch named in the release,  have been working with the MMAFA to help them with their efforts including supporting their work to expand the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act to include mixed martial arts fighters.

The MMAFA issued a statement saying the following:

The MMAFA is working with many unions to bring organization and structure to the sport of mixed martial arts.

Here is the full release

Las Vegas, NV – Today, two of the largest unions in the “fight capital” of the world launched an initiative to organize MMA fighters in the Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC), the largest promoter of professional MMA events.

“We have been surprised to learn how poorly these professional fighters are treated in the UFC. We want to help them to improve conditions for themselves and raise standards for the sport,” said Chris Griswold, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 986, one of the largest Teamsters locals in the country with 17,000 members in Southern California and Nevada.

“UFC fighters can set a new agenda for their sport and make it better by working with regulators, sponsors, investors, and other stakeholders,” added Griswold. “As our efforts did for workers in other industries, fighters united for change can make a huge difference.

“All workers deserve to be treated with respect and dignity,” said Geoconda Arguello-Kline, Secretary-Treasurer of UNITE HERE’s Culinary Workers Union Local 226, the largest union in Las Vegas with 55,000 members. “Housekeepers, kitchen workers, and tens of thousands of other workers in Las Vegas have stood up together to fight for an opportunity to provide for their families. There is no reason UFC fighters cannot do the same.”

“Our unions can bring more tools and resources to the table, including our relationships with other professional athletes’ unions,” added Arguello-Kline. “Mixed martial arts play a big part in the success of the Las Vegas tourism industry, and UFC fighters deserve to share in that success, too.”

More information can be found at the initiative’s website, Fighters’ Agenda:

Teamsters Local 986 and UNITE HERE Culinary Local 226 have several joint organizing projects in Las Vegas, including the Station Casinos organizing campaign, one of the largest private-sector organizing drives in the country. Station Casinos, an affiliate of the UFC, is the worst labor law-breaker in the history of Las Vegas gaming industry, having broken federal labor law eighty-eight times.

I have asked the UFC for a statement, and will update if they respond.

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John S. Nash
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