Calif. Assembly Steps Up for Cheerleaders

     SACRAMENTO (CN) – California’s professional cheerleaders received a round of applause Tuesday, as lawmakers advanced a bill requiring professional sports teams to classify cheerleaders as employees.
     AB 202 would force California’s NBA and NFL franchises to give cheerleaders the same benefits and rights as other employees, such as vendors and athletic trainers.
     Bill author Rep. Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, said it sheds light on billionaire owners who profit from exploiting cheerleaders who often are not paid minimum wage and are misclassified as contractors.
     “They’re not even given minimum wage – they’re required to show up to practices uncompensated – they’re required to show up early to photo shoots uncompensated,” Gonzalez testified.
     Gonzalez cited recent lawsuits cheerleaders brought against the Buffalo Bills and Oakland Raiders.
     “The teams control our outfits, makeup, hair, routines, nails and tans,” said former Raider cheerleader Caitlin Yates. “They even tell us who we can talk to or have relationships with.”
     Lisa Murray, a former Golden State Warriors cheerleader, told the Assembly committee she was paid just $10 per hour and that many professional organizations use “fear tactics” to threaten their jobs to keep them from speaking about employment abuse.
     The Assembly committee voted 4-2 in favor of AB 202, despite the concerns of two committee members who said the reason that cheerleaders are paid so little is that there are thousands of women ready to take their place.
     Rep. Jay Obernolte, R-Hesperia, voted no and questioned whether cheerleaders would qualify for unemployment insurance. He compared cheerleaders to entry-level airplane pilots who receive low pay because of “free-market economics.”
     “What’s holding down the wages and working conditions is the fact that there are thousands and thousands of women that want to do the job and I’m not sure it’s the state’s role to step in,” Obernolte said.
     Rep. David Hadley, R-South Bay, voted no and suggested the cheerleaders could organize and bargain for better employment rights.
     Gonzalez corrected Hadley, saying cheerleaders can’t organize because they are misclassified as independent contractors by some employers.
     “They’re not even being treated like the employees they are, and that’s all this bill does,” Gonzalez said.
     The bill would apply to all minor or major league teams that are members of ice hockey, basketball, football, baseball or soccer organizations.

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