The National Basketball Association lockout is now in its fourth month. As with the earlier National Football League lockout, there’s the classic “owners vs. players” storyline. But not all owners are the same. While the NFL goes to great lengths to maintain individual oligarchs as majority owners, the NBA is relatively laissez-faire about who can own a franchise. Many are owned by larger corporations. And there’s the Toronto Raptors, whose majority owner is…a labour union pension plan.The Raptors are a division of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, which also own the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs, Major League Soccer’s Toronto FC, and various other entertainment venues and networks. Most of MLS&E — 79.5% — is owned by the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, known locally as Teachers’. Teachers’ is jointly funded by the Ontario teachers union and the Ontario provincial government.
So let me get this straight. A labour union pension plan is actively supporting a lockout of another labour union and demanding substantial cuts in previously agreed upon salaries. This same lockout will also result in lost income for thousands of lower-wage workers who depend on NBA games. All so that a union pension plan with over $107 billion can get relief from a series of poor basketball decisions that have doomed the Raptors to perpetual mediocrity.
To add insult to injury, Teachers’ may also be supporting an illegal lockout. Back in July, Dr. David Doorey of York University noted that Ontario labour law requires employers and unions to meet with a government-appointed conciliator at least 14 days before declaring a lockout or strike. Doorey noted Major League Baseball ran afoul of this law during a 1995 lockout of umpires. Even though the lockout was legal under US law, Canadian law obviously still applies in Canadian cities like Toronto.
Some reports, including one by Jonathan Abrams at Grantland, say Teachers’ is looking to sell its ownership stake in MLS&E. If so, then Teachers’ support for the lockout may be part of a plan to make the Raptors’ financials more attractive to a potential buyer. But it doesn’t change the fact that a government-sponsored organisation created to increase the wealth of union workers is attempting to do so by trying to reduce the wages of another union’s workers. And here I thought the labour movement was all about worker solidarity.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.