Rooting for the ‘real refs’

More than anything the NFL fiasco showed that experienced workers have value

When replacement referees snatched victory from the hands of Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers with a horrendously bad call on the final play of the game against Seattle Sept. 24, nobody was more upset than Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

When he woke up the next morning, he was still miserable. “After catching a few hours of sleep, the #Packers game is still just as painful,” Walker tweeted. “#Returntherealrefs.”

This is exquisitely ironic. Walker, after all, is the Republican governor who has inspired other leaders, in both the public and private spheres, to wage war on unions. Just as Walker did in Wisconsin by muscling through legislation that effectively locked out state employee unions, the super-rich owners of the National Football League locked out their referees, hoping to destroy their union or at least roll back their pensions.

The refs represent only 1 percent of the $10 billion NFL enterprise, so it’s hard to understand why the owners would risk their credibility for so little financial gain. And that was just the beginning of their foolishness. Not only did they fail to foresee how embarrassingly inept the scab refs would be, they also failed to understand that workers have value, that experience and skill are irreplaceable, and that ultimately their business, like all businesses, was built on the backs of workers.

What’s true for NFL referees is also true for teachers, social workers, DMV clerks and others who work for government and whom governors like Walker are trying to purge. They are not expendable. They have value. Everyone who booed the replacement refs and called for the “real refs” to return should keep that in mind.