New California Bill Aims to Create Fair Wages for NFL Cheerleaders

2009 CheerleadersSAN DIEGO, Cal. – Thanks to Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, NFL cheerleaders may soon be treated to equal rights.

The life of an NFL cheerleader is glamorous and exciting. At least, that is, in the eyes of the public. What many aren’t aware of is the NFL’s dirty little secret: Most NFL cheerleaders are paid less than $5 an hour.

Consider, for a moment, that cheerleaders for most franchises are paid $125 per home game. Then take into account mandatory practices, overtime, and public appearances; none of which are compensated. It comes as a shock to many to discover that some of the most popular sideline entertainers are paid less than minimum wage.

What would be considered unfair labor practices in other industries is considered commonplace in the NFL and, if Gonzalez has anything to do with it, that will soon change.

In her bill, AB 202, Gonzalez aims to protect cheerleaders from unpaid overtime, the necessity to spend personal funds for the job, and to be treated as employees under California law. As it stands, many NFL teams classify cheerleaders as volunteers.

In recent years, cheerleaders for the Cincinnati Bengals, Oakland Raiders and Buffalo Bills have brought suit against the NFL for illegal workplace actions. In the case of the Raiders, the franchise settled for $1.5 million. Providing payouts to 90 women who cheered for the team from 2010 through 2013.

“If the guy selling you the beer deserves a minimum wage, so does the woman entertaining you on the field,” said Gonzalez.

The NFL and, more specifically, the San Diego Chargers have declined to speak to reporters regarding the proposed legislation.

An employment attorney in San Diego, Dan Eaton, points out that giving cheerleaders full employee rights may cause teams to forgo contracting with squads. Even though players make millions, paying cheerleaders may be too against the grain for some franchises.

This bill is not the first introduced by Gonzalez in an effort to improve workers’ rights. The Assemblywoman is responsible for the bill that was recently signed into law, guaranteeing California employees three paid sick days per year. Gonzalez is also fighting to give every employee in the state holiday pay for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Whether or not the bill is signed into legislation remains to be seen. As it stands, there is little room to argue that NFL cheerleaders are not currently enjoying equal treatment or fair labor practices.

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