Take-Down? Teamsters Tag-Team With UNITE-HERE To Unionize UFC Fighters


UFC Girls

Well, according to a union press release, this may prove to be one helluva fight…

LAS VEGAS, Aug. 6, 2015 — 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.”

According to the unions’ press release, more information can be found at the initiative’s website: www.FightersAgenda.org.


  1. This is an interesting organizing development in light of the recent NLRB decision rejecting an ALJ’s decision ruling Northwestern football players were an appropriate bargaining unit. The decision nullified the ballots collected during the representation election a few years prior. In light of the Board’s recent decision, I question wwhether organizing UFC fighters will succeed. Market forces, and the economics of this sports genre are not like professional baseball,football, basketball and hockey that are unionized and have offered real value to their player-members, most especially professional baseball. The late Marvin Miller and his inspiring and insightful book: “It’s a Whole New Ballgame” offers key lessons, insights and the challenges inherent in organizing professional athletes. The UFC game has high turnover and its athletes have short career spams due to the dangerous nature of their sport. These are not factors condusive to successful organizing much less leveraging and negotiating a successful collective agreement. The market is also dangerously fluid and transient allowing owners and fighters to remain non-union by moving the market to other venues. The Teamsters and UNITE are in for a real struggle and a fight I believe they can’t win. All I can say is “good luck” – you are going to need it.


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