Former presidential candidate Andrew Yang surprised many on Friday evening when he came out and criticized WWE and Vince McMahon for a new company policy set to take effect in a couple of weeks. A report surfaced on Friday afternoon that WWE communicated to their talent on Thursday that they will no longer be allowed to market themselves on third party platforms without the threat of being fined, suspended, or fired. WWE and Vince McMahon are moving forward with an argument that the company not only owns the performer's stage names, but also their real names, and that independently marketing themselves on services outside of WWE goes against company policy.
The company's stance on this matter immediately came under fire due to WWE's classification of employees as "independent contractors," which has allowed them to sidestep providing talent with benefits such as retirement plans and health insurance over the years.
Yang, a successful entrepreneur who many feel will be considered for a cabinet position should former Vice President Joe Biden prevail in November's United States presidential election, lambasted WWE on Friday night for the new policy.
"If I’m not the Secretary of Labor I’m pretty confident I’ll have his or her number to talk about the ridiculous classification of WWE wrestlers as independent contractors while controlling their name and likeness for years, even for something as benign as Cameo.
Come on Vince - you’ve already deprived the folks breaking their backs for you of healthcare, security, recovery time, retirement benefits and fair treatment re: licenses and royalties. At least let them make a living off their own names. Many of them need it.
I grew up a wrestling fan and it’s been sad to see so many of my childhood heroes pass away early. I’d feel better knowing that they and their families were being fairly treated - I look forward to doing what I can for the next generation of performers. I know how tough it is.
Vince you’d better hope your old friend Donald wins because change is in the air and changes are long overdue where your corrupt labor practices are concerned. It would give me great pleasure. The people know."
Come on Vince - you’ve already deprived the folks breaking their backs for you of healthcare, security, recovery time, retirement benefits and fair treatment re: licenses and royalties. At least let them make a living off their own names. Many of them need it.— Andrew Yang🧢🇺🇸 (@AndrewYang) September 5, 2020
Vince you’d better hope your old friend Donald wins because change is in the air and changes are long overdue where your corrupt labor practices are concerned. It would give me great pleasure. The people know.— Andrew Yang🧢🇺🇸 (@AndrewYang) September 5, 2020
Several within the industry have also started to speak out against WWE's latest move, with most believing it is an overreach. Talents both current and former have made comments critical of WWE's new policy on social media.
There is no labor union in professional wrestling. Unionizing would take some courage from some of the top names in the industry, as well as some outside help (perhaps the Screen Actors Guild would be a good ally in the fight) to help organize.
It remains to be seen if this is the spark that finally brings about a professional wrestling union. Yang has spoken about the need for MMA fighters to unionize in the past, so his voice and support for a wrestler's union could be a powerful one in the years ahead.
"I’m very confident that under a Democratic administration, we can very quickly recognize the economic reality that these fighters have been operating under and can recognize the reality that they are employees and should have the ability to organize and negotiate for a higher proportion of the sport’s revenues," Yang told the Washington Post in May. "I don’t need to be president to make that happen. Obviously, I was running for president and would have been thrilled to do it as president, but if there’s a Democratic president, we’ll still get it done.
"Like, I can frankly just call Joe [Biden]. [Laughs] And say, “Hey this is going to seem like something you don’t need to care about, but let’s do this for the fighters because it’s the right thing to do.” I’m very excited to make that call."