Sunday, January 25, 2004

(sports) blame the players!, #35791

NYT today is running a story with the headline "Low-Wage Costa Ricans Make Baseballs for Millionaires." The article is about the low pay and injurious working conditions for the employees who make the baseballs used by Major League Baseball. The "Millionaires" in the headline refers to the baseball players, as the article makes much of the contrast between the salaries of baseball makers and MLB players.
Every baseball used in the major leagues is made here, millions of them. They are handcrafted with the precision of a machine by the men and women of Turrialba and the towns in the green hills beyond.

The baseball workers typically make about $2,750 a year. A baseball player in the United States makes, on average, about $2,377,000, the Players Association says.
When [an interviewed worker] talks about the difference in wages between baseball workers and baseball players, it takes her breath away.

"We sacrifice a lot so they can play," she said. "It's an injustice that we kill ourselves to make these balls perfect, and with one home run, they're gone."
Indeed, the only time it is suggested that perhaps MLB might intervene on behalf of the workers, the onus of responsibility is placed upon the players.
Few baseball players are aware of where the ball comes from, said Charles Kernaghan, the executive director of the National Labor Committee, an international workers' rights group based in New York. "But if the players would actually stand up, it would have enormous consequences" for the baseball workers, including better pay, he said.
Aren't the Costa Rican workers really making the baseballs for the millionaires who own baseball teams? Sure, it would be great if players agitated on behalf of the workers, but, rather than trying to shame them into it, wouldn't it be more direct to focus on the owners who actually negotiate and sign the contracts with the baseball manufacturers?

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