A cheerleaders union for national transcendence

Anthony Varriano

If you visit the website of the Oakland Raider cheerleaders, www.raiders.com/raiderettes, you will notice that every part of their beautiful bodies is bought and paid for. Destiny Monet owns the hair and is the official salon of the Raiderettes. Mac Cosmetics owns the face and is the official makeup artist. Core Dynamics provides the official fitness trainers and owns the stomach. And Tan Angels pays for the legs as the official tanning salon of the cheerleaders. Yet these women are paid just $1,250 annually, which amounts to less than $5 per hour.

Despite the Oakland Raiders selling every body part of the Raiderettes to shamelessly pinch pennies, the cheerleaders have to pay for their own makeup and hair styling. They also pay their own travel expenses to fan events and photo shoots. I ask, how can the Raiders’ brass live with themselves when none of the advertising revenue goes to those being objectified as walking, talking, dancing billboards?

Since attorney Sharon Vinick filed suit in Alameda County Superior Court on Wednesday in the Raiderettes’ behalf, I’m surprised we haven’t heard any other professional cheerleading squads complaining of unfair employment practices. In fact, it’s surprising there isn’t a massive call to unionize, especially since NFL mascots make between $23,000 and $65,000 per year, not including benefits and bonuses, according to therichest.com. 

In an interview with the Livingston Enterprise Thursday, Vinick said, “Although I personally believe in unions … it’s something that’s out of my expertise, but I’m sure there are plenty of union lawyers who would be interested in talking with them about it.”

A $9.5 billion dollar industry can afford to give these talented ladies a raise. And although cheerleading isn’t meant to be a full-time job, these women can expect to practice six hours at a time and work 12-hour game days, not to mention putting themselves at higher risk for injury.

NFL cheerleaders aren’t the only ones who should unionize. Every girl with aspirations of being a cheerleader in professional sports should have no qualms about paying a modest annual membership fee to acquire the benefit of collective bargaining. It wouldn’t be much different than the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, where extras, people who stand around and enjoy coffee and craft services all day, get a reasonable wage and workman’s compensation benefits. This is not too much to ask.

When asked if she expects the Raiders to settle out of court, Vinick replied, “I think that we have a very, very strong case. It’s going to be up to the Oakland Raiders to decide.”

Judging from early reports, it certainly seems Vinick is right about the strength of their case. A cheerleaders union would never allow the Oakland Raiders to withhold pay until the end of the year, shortchange its employees, and make them pay transportation, hair and makeup costs; or fine them for bringing the wrong pom-poms to games or forgetting yoga mats for practice. 

Rise up and overcome cheerleaders of the world, so we can all cheer for a better tomorrow.


Anthony Varriano may be reached at avarriano@livent.net.