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Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: It’s Time To Unionize

a group of Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders practice outside
Courtesy of Netflix

This is a message for this year’s Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader candidates only: It’s time to download Signal and start a union.

I watched that Netflix docuseries America’s Sweethearts and I can’t stop thinking about how Dallas Cowboys Chief Brand Officer and Executive Vice President Charlotte Jones said that even though they make like $500 a game, these women don’t become DCC for the money. Rather, according to Jones, “They have a passion for dance. There are not a lot of opportunities in the field of dance to get to perform at an elite level. It is about being a part of something bigger than themselves." I can’t believe this was the best media training the daughter of a billionaire could get, but I’m sure she doesn’t do her job for the $1.5 million salary either. 

Look, I know you’re going to say you can’t start a union because they’ll just fire you and replace you with 36 more compliant women. First of all, that’s illegal. As much as the team may insist that it’s a family, it’s not. It’s a job. Second, I understand that you don’t want to rock the boat. That is the trouble with highly coveted roles; they can pay you pennies just for the privilege of being part of the team. I get it—I’m a journalist! Third, isn’t the whole point of America’s Sweethearts that you have to have a perfect, ineffable mix of skill, charisma, beauty, and flexibility to earn a spot on the team? That to be DCC is more than just holding pom-poms and stomping in Lucchese boots, and therefore it’s a highly skilled and selective job with a finite talent pool? If that’s true, management should be fighting like hell to keep their unicorn dancers content. If that’s not true, those ladies should stop physically and emotionally torturing you during the audition process. People have been saying this for years, but because of this docuseries, you currently have the visibility and public sentiment behind you. This is your moment.

Things you could negotiate for: greater protections against sexual assault and harassment, and maybe not having to do those jump splits that put so many DCC women in the hospital. Maybe you could negotiate for the ability to change your uniform throughout the season in case your body commits the embarrassing sin of fluctuating in size. Oh, and just a reminder that the highest-paid NFL player this season, Deshaun Watson, makes $63,774,678, so I think the league can bear the hardship of paying cheerleaders a reasonable salary. You’ve spent your lives becoming the best at what you do, and you’re entitled to workplace protections and commensurate wages just like any worker. 

I know almost all of you work full-time jobs in addition to cheerleading—some of you are likely members of unions at those jobs already! There’s probably a wealth of organizational experience among your ranks. You would just need a few hot-headed rabble rousers to start giving the Barbie monologue to everyone on your team. Keep it quiet, but win as many hearts and minds as possible. Contact a union organizer. A friend of mine who is a labor organizer recommended three options to start: Unite Here, American Guild of Variety Artists, and the SEIU’s Allied, Entertainment & Multi-Services Division. You could also contact the NFL Players Association, which represents NFL players but might be a helpful starting point for navigating a relationship with the league. It would take more coordination, but collaborating with other NFL teams could make a potential union much stronger and harder to ignore. 

Some of your colleagues have sued the league for discrimination and wage theft, which is a great step. But like Christina Floozy says in her column about this, “lawsuits can only help the people who file them, and unless every cheerleader in the NFL wants to lawyer up, it's hard to imagine much is going to change.” You know what can force a change? Getting organized. And we’ve all just seen how good you are at lining up and acting together. 

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