As if having the attention of former Democratic presidential candidate and potential Biden cabinet member Andrew Yang wasn't bad enough, WWE and its controversial labor situation now have the attention of SAG-AFTRA, the labor union representing over 160,000 people in the film and television entertainment industry. SAG-AFTRA's official Twitter account retweeted Zelina Vega's tweet in support of unionization last night, adding, "So do we." After that, SAG-AFTRA's president chimed in and asked Vega to reach out to her directly. Vega emerged Friday as the symbol of a growing conflict in the wrestling business between labor and management after refusing to hand over control over her Twitch account to the company.
Vega was released by WWE last night about an hour before Smackdown went on the air. Vega has been an outspoken opponent of WWE's recent policy change that demanded wrestlers hand over their Twitch accounts, along with the profits. WWE's wrestlers are classified as independent contractors but don't appear to meet any standard definition of the term. WWE has been making record profits since the pandemic started but laid off dozens of workers. After learning of the release, Vega tweeted in support of unionization. WWE announced her release ten minutes later.
"Hey @Zelina_VegaWWE Thanks for standing strong for labor solidarity. I support you. Please email me PresidentCarteris@sagaftra.org," wrote Gabrielle Carteris, president of SAG-AFTRA. It's unknown whether Zelina Vega has taken her up on the offer yet.
SAG-AFTRA's involvement is an interesting twist for the ongoing situation. WWE first attained mainstream notoriety for its treatment of wrestlers in 2019 when John Oliver discussed the independent contractor classification on his HBO show, Last Week Tonight. When the Twitch situation emerged in September of this year, Andrew Yang, a wrestling fan, got involved.
"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," Yang tweeted, adding, "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," Yang continued. He finished, "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."
Donald Trump did not win the election. Zelina Vega, due to another very un-independent-contractor-like non-compete clause, will not be able to wrestle for another company on television until February.