Bischoff: “I would encourage talent to think long and hard about whether they want to be unionized”

Sep 9, 2020 - by Steve Gerweck

In the newest edition of 83 Weeks, Eric Bischoff discussed WWE’s third-party policy for employees, wrestlers forming a union, and much more. You can read his comments below.

Eric Bischoff on WWE’s third-party policy: “I see both sides of it. Number one, I understand it, and this is probably gonna rub some people the wrong way or whatever. But WWE invests massive amounts of money in their characters, in their intellectual property. And the intellectual property and the values of the assets that are created and such is what drives WWE – it’s the blood that pumps through their heart. And you have to protect that. I understand why they’re doing what they’re doing. But it can backfire.”

On a potential wrestler’s union: “Any wrestling company out there has a distinct advantage when they’re producing televisions in that there are no unions. There’s no Screen Actor’s Guild, there’s no Writer’s Guild. You still have to deal with unions, but your talent – your core talent – you don’t. To be able to classify talent as independent contractors is a big advantage in the industry across the board – not just for WWE. I’ve seen people this week commenting on this situation and saying ‘Wrestlers need a union.’ Be careful what you wish for because that shit can come back to kill you. It sounds good on paper, it sounds really good – I’m getting protected, I’m gonna get free this, I’m gonna get health insurance. I get it, man. I’ve gone without health insurance. Things got tight for me and a couple of businesses didn’t go my way and cash dried up. But I had no choice. I know how that feels. I also know what happens when you unionize and you change the entire compensation structure for such an important part of the wrestling business across the board. The same could be true for AEW if this kind of talk keeps going and I would encourage talent to think long and hard about whether they want to be unionized because while it sounds good in the beginning, the unintended consequences of it – especially the financial consequences of it – it could be really dramatically affected.”

On the independent contractor status for wrestlers: “I think what WWE has done by coming out and putting the hammer down on these third-party appearances is number one, drawing attention to the independent contractor status of the roster. If you Googled the criteria to be an independent contractor and you kind of look at policies and procedures that take place in wrestling, you’re gonna have a hard time justifying that status. If and when – it’s a matter of when, not if, I’ve been saying this for decades – that’s the one real vulnerability in the industry is if and when somebody makes a move to either unionize or challenge the independent contractor status in a way that forces wrestling companies to classify talent as employees. It’s gonna have a dramatic financial impact on the industry and not necessarily a good one.”

Eric Bischoff on WWE wanting to protect its intellectual property: “The WWE logo doesn’t belong to the talent. That’s not their investment. That’s not a publically held corporation that the talent has equity in necessarily. It’s WWE property. So if you’re using that in a way that doesn’t benefit the WWE, or think about it this way – again it’s not if but when – somebody’s gonna go on Twitch or Twitter or some other third-party platform and do or say something that could embarrass the company or hurt the company – not just embarrass them but financially hurt them or expose them in a way that’s out of their control because the talent decided just to go off and do something they wanted to do and use the WWE intellectual property and trademark to promote it. I’d have a hard time with that if I was in WWE. If I were Vince McMahon, I wouldn’t be comfortable with that at all. I would accommodate them – do whatever you want – just don’t use my intellectual property to promote it.”

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