If you don’t follow the world of soccer, you may not know that megastar Cristiano Ronaldo recently completed a transfer from the Spanish club Real Madrid to Juventus. You may also not know that this move has a bunch of Fiat Chrysler workers so mad they’re going on strike. Here’s why.
See, Juventus is an Italian club controlled by the same family that controls Fiat Chrysler. Ronaldo wasn’t cheap, costing Juventus around $130 million—a fact which has sufficiently pissed off some Fiat workers such that they’re planning to strike.
From Juventus’s point of view, spending $130 million on the world’s second best player was a smart soccer and business decision, sending Juve’s stock skyrocketing and immediately improving its team on the field. And Ronaldo, one of the world’s biggest soccer stars, will now be sporting the black-and-white Juventus jersey with the damn Jeep logo splayed all huge across the front. Which is ostensibly good for brand awareness!
But from the autoworkers’ perspective, spending $130 million on a single new colleague was $130 million their owners could have invested in other businesses owned by the Agnelli family. Like, say, Fiat Chrysler.
From the BBC:
For the USB union, the decision means Fiat is missing out on investment.
It said the firm needed to guarantee the future of thousands of people, “rather than enriching only one”.
The union added that it was “unacceptable” that while Fiat Chrysler workers were making “huge economic sacrifices”, millions of euros were being spent on the purchase of a player.
It’s unclear what “huge economic sacrifices” they meant, given that FCA isn’t exactly on the brink at the moment. They also said in a statement:
“We’re all employees of the same owner, but in such a period of enormous social difficulty this difference in treatment cannot and must not be accepted,” the union said. “The company should invest in car models that guarantee the futures of thousands of people, rather than enriching only one.”
The FCA workers are based at the company’s plant in Melfi, which makes the Fiat 500X and the Jeep Renegade. That plant is (so far) the only of Fiat’s seven Italian plants to host a strike, and even this one will be limited, since USB does not represent “many” workers at the plant, according to the BBC. The strike will start at 10 p.m. local time Sunday, and end Tuesday at 6 a.m.
The limited nature of the strike makes it feel more like a stunt than a serious attempt at change, in addition to the fact that Juventus and FCA—while being controlled by the same owners—operate independent of each other.
Still, I would argue that this is exactly what unions are for: to agitate; to make management feel uncomfortable; to refocus the issues on the workers; and to remind people that the power of organized labor is useless if you don’t use it.