A new bill from Assemblywoman Nily Rozic, D-Queens that may provide employment protection makes Buffalo Jills cheer. If passed, professional sports teams will have to treat cheerleaders as employees and pay at least minimum wage. The bill would give the independent contractor cheerleaders the “rights, benefits and protections” of team employees. Rozic was inspired to present the bill after ex-Jills sued the Buffalo Bills in 2014 for paying less than minimum wage and forcing them to work public appearances for no pay at all.
That suit is currently pending in the New York Supreme Court. The suit further alleges that the Jills had to endure sexual harrassment at events and that some members were even given detailed instructions on proper hygiene and how to conduct themselves in public.
Rozic issued a statement saying, “As we continue the fight for equal pay across the state, we cannot overlook any worker entitled to fair pay under the law. Sports teams and owners should not continue to capitalize without providing the most basic workplace protections.”
The bill, the Cheerleaders’ Fair Pay Act, applies to all pro sports teams in New York. Whether it’s “acrobatics, dance or gymnastic exercises in promotion of a professional sports franchise,” the performers are covered as cheerleaders and given employee protection.
This isn’t the first such suit. There have been at least five, including as defendants the New York Jets, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Oakland Raiders. The Buccs and Raiders settled their suits.
The Buffalo Jills were “placed on hiatus” after their suit was filed and the squad didn’t perform at Bills games in 2014. It will be a close one on getting them back to work in 2015 as Rozic’s bill was only introduced last week. Legislators will be in session in Albany only a few days a week until June 17. At that point, they return to their districts for the rest of 2015.
Indulge me, if you will, in a little roleplay. I am a Buffalo Jill. I work my butt off cheering in all kinds of weather regardless of my own health and the last time I tasted a cheeseburger was puberty. Men are allowed to objectify me and, in some cases, outright harass me and the franchise makes big bucks from it.
I earn less than minimum wage but, unlike waitstaff, I don’t get tips. I have no company-provided health insurance because I’m a 1099 contractor. I am literally “on” 24/7/365, not just at games. The franchise issues me detailed instructions on how I am to groom and comport myself whenever I’m in public. And I haven’t even looked at a pepperoni pizza since high school. The players make millions per year, have fantastic benefits and, despite franchise instructions, seem to be in the news every week for some type of assinine stunt.
I and several of my cohorts finally sue for better treatment and the franchise puts us on the shelf. So now, rather than making sub-minimum wage, I make nothing at all.
Didn’t this type of sweatshop treatment become illegal sometime around Abraham Lincoln’s presidency?
Were I actually a Buffalo Jill, I would sue, too. Then, I would eat a damn cheeseburger for breakfast, a whole pepperoni pizza for lunch and the GM of the franchise, fricasseed, for dinner.
Rock on, Jills, rock on! I hope you win your suit and I hope Rozic’s law passes. This is 2015, people! C’mon, now!