4/29/2007

Collective Bargaining Agreements

I’m not an economist or a labor lawyer, but there are certain features of any labor dispute which seem obvious. There are always three parties involved: ownership, labor, and the consumer. The consumer is the engine that drives the whole thing. When two people own a goose that lays golden eggs, they might bicker over the details and responsibilities of ownership, but ultimately they understand that what’s at stake is more than just schnitzel. They know that keeping it together is ultimately beneficial and necessary for both parties.

The immediate cause for thinking about this is the expiration of the NFL’s CBA. Football is such a cash-cow that it’s simply impossible that there won’t be some kind of agreement reached between ownership and the players. In order to bring the product to the consumer, i.e., the fans, there must be a CBA. Ownership has everything, but can’t play the game. The players can play, but don’t have the resources to bring the game to the world. The needs of the fan dictate that the owners and players must figure out a way to get along, and re-enter into a contract with each other.

OK, but that’s football, right? Wrong.

17 You have agreed this day that the LORD is to be your God, and that you will walk in His ways, and keep His statutes, and His commandments, and His ordinances, and listen to His voice. 18 And the LORD has agreed this day that you are to be His treasure, as He hath promised thee, and to keep all His commandments; 19 and to raise you above all nations that He has made, to be a praise, a name, and a model of glory, and that you will be a holy people unto the LORD your God, as He has spoken. {P}
-Devarim 26: 17-19

The above passage is but one which discusses the nature of the covenant between God and Israel. It’s a bilateral covenant, wherein each side agrees to certain responsibilities. Using the sports analogy, God is Ownership, Israel is the players, and the rest of the world is the fan, the consumer. For better or worse, through thick and thin, God and Israel are ‘stuck’ with each other.

Essentially, Moshe was the first to point this out, in this week’s parsha, when he argues that once God has selected Israel, to destroy them would undermine the very message that He’s trying to broadcast to the world. The basis of this covenant, invoked by Moshe in our Parsha, is the ‘thirteenfold covenant’ which both names God’s attributes and describes for us how we can become ‘Godlike’, how we can ‘walk in his ways’. It also ‘forces’ both both parties involved, God and Israel, to renew the ‘contract’ every year (specifically every Rosh Hashana), where we agree to wipe the slate clean and give it another chance, basically because neither party has a choice in the matter.

There’s also the idea of a ‘Players’ Union’ which is so important. Individually, each player is expendable. Collectively, their bargaining power becomes formidable. Similarly, the bargaining power that each member of Israel has is pretty weak. Any one of us is ultimately expendable. It’s only through ‘collective bargaining’ and ‘unionization’ that we can ‘force’ God back to the table with us.

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