Culinary Union Files Letter to FTC Accusing Zuffa of Violating Anti-Trust Laws

September 1, 2011
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The ongoing war between Zuffa, LLC and the Culinary Workers Union continues to rage on with the latest shot fired being a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) asking for an investigation into the UFC for violating anti-trust laws.

In a letter filed to the FTC on Aug. 31, the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 asked the commission to research and determine if Zuffa and the UFC have achieved a position too dominant in the world of MMA, and thus violated anti-trust laws.

The letter states that Zuffa and the UFC have purchased other competitors such as Pride, Strikeforce, and the WEC, and, as of 2008, controlled “80 to 90 percent” of the mixed martial arts market.

They also allege that the UFC has strengthened that position through “exclusionary conduct by refusing to co-promote events, as well as anti-competitive contractual restraints that severely limit a professional athlete’s freedom of movement.”

The Culinary Union points to UFC contract requirements such as a “champion’s clause,” which automatically extends a competitor’s contract if they win or hold a title in the promotion, as well as exclusive negotiating rights and licensing rights for image and likeness.

The letter goes on to explain the UFC’s policy on co-promotion and points to negotiations that broke down between the promotion when dealing with Fedor Emelianenko due to M-1 Global’s insistence on co-promotion as part of his contract.

They accuse Zuffa of violating the Sherman Act, which “prohibits monopolization or attempts to monopolize in restraint of trade.”

The Culinary Union is essentially asking the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Zuffa for their business practices, and to determine if they are violating anti-trust laws.

UFC president Dana White has maintained for months that the Culinary Union has a vendetta against Zuffa because of an ongoing beef with them and Station Casinos.

Station Casinos, owned and operated by the Fertitta brothers, who also own a majority stake in Zuffa, is the largest non-union gaming company in the United States. The Culinary Union has been at war with Station Casinos for some time due to its operations without a union for its employees.

It appears they are taking their fight to a whole new front now.

White initially brought up the dispute when discussing the problems they’ve had getting the sport sanctioned in New York State.

“It has nothing to do with MMA. It has to do with the Culinary Union,” White said. “They’re very powerful in New York. These unions on the east coast are still strong like the old school, and that’s really what’s going on.”

While the letter filed on Wednesday doesn’t mention the state of New York, it obviously shows that the Culinary Union is openly challenging Zuffa.

The Federal Trade Commission employs over 300 people and has an open door policy regarding things like anti-trust laws, but there’s no telling if they will launch an investigation or what kind of timeline exists for them to do so.

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  • phrankthetank

    Wow, I guess Dana White wasn’t talking out of his ass. It makes me laugh that the culinary union is attacking a mixed martial arts promotion because they can’t do anything about the fertittas’ other businesses. They really should put union dues to better use. That being said, I’m curious to see how this plays out and the findings of the investigation should there be one.

  • clizzark

    What about the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, etc…?

    • SP99


  • ShockednAwed


    What about the major pro sports leagues? They’ve all got major players’ unions, that’s what.

    Which do you think the Zuffa Bros. wanna give up – the casinos, or the UFC?

    • Prodigy815

      The Zuffa Bros?

      • ShockednAwed

        The Zuffa Brothers, the pair that own the UFC and Station Casinos, probably amongst other ventures.

      • ShockednAwed

        Sorry, I’m a moron – I was trying to be cutesy calling them the Zuffas in the first post, then forgot that wasn’t their names… I meant Fertitta brothers. 😀

        • Darren2112

          I like it. i think that could stick.

          The Zuffa Bros!

    • youdosuck

      Those are team sports league. I don’t believe Tennis, Golf and Nascar have unions because they are individual sport, just like mma.

      • Unador

        You don’t have to sign a contract with a promotional organization to compete in golf or tennis. Those are individual players that don’t have to sacrifice their rights to their own image, or hamper their freedom to compete elsewhere by signing contracts with restrictions on them.
        They just show up to compete, and qualify to compete with their present record/ranking. They get money from their sponsers independently, and don’t negotiate a pay scale, they win their paycheck which is pre described. An 18 yr old 1st yr PRO gets the same money to win an event as the 45 yr old 25 yr vet.

        • wonggfan

          You have no idea.

      • ShockednAwed

        What Unador said. 😀

    • clizzark

      It doesn’t look to be about whether the UFC has a union or not, it’s just about giving shit to the UFC because of their feud with Station casinos.

      • ShockednAwed

        I’m of the opinion it may be coming out publicly this way, but the behind-the-scenes conversations between the Fertitta brothers and the union would go something like:
        UNION – Hey, you know, we’ll drop this whole UFC/Anti-Trust thing if you unionize the casino staff…
        ZUFFA – Not gonna happen.
        UNION – Well, in that case, we’re going to suggest unionizing your UFC athletes to protect them at least in this monopoly you’ve created.
        ZUFFA – Ya know what, we always thought our casinos could use a union…

        Probably not quite that cut-and-dry, but you get the idea.

  • Union dues being wasted.

  • sirreadsalot10

    What monopoly? There are smaller shows all over the US and abroad. It’s not the UFC’s fault that the production value of Elite XC, Strikeforce, Pride, etc. suck so bad that fans prefer the UFC. The aforementioned shows weren’t forced to sell to the UFC. The did it because they knew they sucked. I freaking hate modern unions. There was a time when they were necessary but now they are just overgrown bully’s that drive up prices with overblown salaries and further their own political agendas with forced dues.

    • ShockednAwed

      Totally agree on the monopoly point… disagree on the other, though.

      You can certainly make the argument that unions “drive up prices with overblown salaries,” but it can also be argued that unions just make sure the means of production get their fair-share of the profits, and that it’s corporate greed driving prices skyward.

      And “forced dues” is equal to ‘forced taxes’. If you or I could get away with using the roads, getting our education, etc. etc, without having to pay our share of taxes, human nature would dictate we’d probably say, “Hey, thanks!” So if dues weren’t automatic, would anyone be willing to voluntarily pay for work they don’t always necessarily see, or causes that don’t directly affect them, but could be crucial indirectly?

      But hey, it’s a real political issue, and that polarizes people at the best of times. We’ll more than likely just agree to disagree. (that’s an honest attempt to keep it friendly, not an attempt to discourage a response! 😀 )

      • sirreadsalot10

        Hey, no offence taken. Honestly, I think corporate greed is culpable as well, though I have never been one of those people that view turning a profit as evil. Personally, I hate anyone (including the government) taking my money and using it for things I don’t agree with. And just like the government, union power is out of control, corrupt, and (i feel) detrimental to the long term viability of our economic prosperity. I understand that some will disagree with this assessment but regardless of criticism i believe it to be true.

        • ShockednAwed

          I won’t argue with the corruption charge, for governments, unions or the corporate world!

          I also don’t view turning the profit as evil; I usually end up taking issue with the way a business or industry has gone about it. Hacking and slashing staff, while demanding increases in workloads and profitis, is a corporate quick-fix solution to a sagging bottom-line. The long-term reality sees less money out there in the pool as the unemployment lines grow, and it’s a vicious cycle. It’s why the auto industry needed the bailout – the workers they’d been laying off had previously been fresh money in the pool, and had been buying cars… not anymore!

          Now I’m not naive enough, or pro-union enough, to claim organized workforces are the saviour – not anymore. Maybe once upon a time, but that was before my time. Strength is declining, and people don’t seem to see the value in that kind of community investment anymore – it’s an ‘i-world’, not an ‘us-world’. But, just because it’s broken, doesn’t mean it might not be worth fixing. 🙂

  • The union might actually have a few sympathizers among the fighters; e.g., Paul Daley, Renato Sobral, Karo Parysian, etc.

  • bdono554

    Daley, Sobral, and Parysian got what they deserved! The first two went past the end of the fight and Karo got about half a dozen chances.