Saturday, September 3, 2011

Evidence: Culinary Workers Union Local 226 battling Zuffa, LLC with Regard to MMA

Good friend to the Coalition to Legalize Mixed Martial Arts in New York, the Fight Nerd, broke this story a few days ago.

There has been significant debate this year reagrding Zuffa's ongoing battle with Culinary Workers Union Local 226 with regard to the Las Vegas based non-union Station Casino chain owned by majority UFC owners Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta. While there has been little concrete evidence, the rumor mill has been churning out stories that the Culinary Workers Union was, in fact, blocking the passage of MMA legislation in New York.*

Outside of rumor, the only concrete piece of evidence that any union was invested enough to battle MMA here in New York as a means of sticking it to Zuffa & the Fertittas, was this Senate wide memo from earlier this year, which held little sway; as we now know that MMA legislation passed the Senate with overwhelming support.

Still, Zuffa continued to push the story that the Culinary Workers Union was fighting MMA in New York; as a means of fighting their enemies, the Fetittas, on another unrelated front.  Similarly, rumors have been spreading like wildfire across the internet that there was a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigation of Zuffa underway. These two rumors, the Cullinary Workers Union blockage in New York and the FTC investigation, had never been formally associated. They still have not, but it now seems more probable.  On August 31st, the Fight Nerd was contacted by...

...the Culinary Workers Union, with a letter addressed to Richard Feinstein, Director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Competition. In response to concerns raised by professional athletes, the CWU are encouraging the Federal Trade Commission to investigate possible anti-competitive practices in professional mixed martial arts.

Here is a copy of said letter:

I have heard whispers from legislators who once swore steadfast that the unions were no issue in Albany; now suggesting it could be a problem. Quiet rumblings are suggesting that Sheldon Silver, Assembly Speaker and union supporter, is being influenced in this regard (he is the one blocking the legislation). This would seem contrary to the thoughts of Assembly Labor Committee Chair, Keith L. T. Wright, who is a strong supporter on MMA and claimed earlier this year that he had no knowledge of any union blockage in Albany.**

The bottom line is that the Culinary Workers Union is fighting Zuffa in Vegas and in general (the merits of their complaints are worthy of an editorial all their own). Are they or will they continue to be influential here in New York? Only time will tell. New York's political waters run deep and murky. But, one thing is for sure: regardless of whether the union is actively fighting MMA here in New York as a means to attack their enemies on another front, the negative press Zuffa is gaining from it's non-MMA activities is not good for MMA here in our state. It is tarnishing our sport in the eyes of the sport's opposition.

We supporters of MMA need to remind our legislators that the sport is bigger than Zuffa and the UFC. While there may be two UFC's a year in New York if MMA is legalized, the rest of the year will be left to the community at large (the majority) including many, many other promoters and events. The UFC is certainly the biggest and most vocal game in town, but we need to remind people that they are just a small part of the MMA community at large.

Let Governor Cuomo know you want MMA!

Stephen Koepfer
Founder, Coalition to Legalize Mixed Martial Arts in New York

*See my prior editorials on the subject:

**See "Wright is Right"

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