The word “union” has long been thought of as a taboo word in the carny world of professional wrestling.
My first memories of that come from the alleged story of Hulk Hogan foiling Jesse Ventura’s attempt to unionize. As the story goes, it was two weeks before WrestleMania 2 and Ventura gave a speech to the locker room promoting the idea of the talent not wrestling unless they had the opportunity to unionize. He wanted pro wrestlers, who were treated as independent contractors, to have more power. After Hogan tipped off WWE head honcho Vince McMahon, Ventura was read the riot act, threatened with termination and any real momentum of a union in professional wrestling died that day.
Over the past couple of years, I began hearing about Max Barsky – an independent professional wrestler known in the industry as “The Product” David Starr. Barsky is an outspoken socialist and supporter of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders who openly began promoting the idea of a union in professional wrestling.
In 2019, Barsky launched “We The Independent,” a merchandise company which sells clothing and other items with proceeds reportedly helping “independent performance artists.” The merchandise is plastered with ideology which promotes unionization and includes one t-shirt which promotes “Eat the rich.”
Barsky has been an outspoken critic of WWE, particularly their business model of buying or aligning themselves closely with independent professional wrestling companies. Recently, a report came out which suggested he was forced out of Westside Extreme Wrestling because of their allegiance with WWE – although that wasn’t the first example of this happening. There’s a feeling among some in the industry that WWE is blackballing Barsky due to his promotion of a union in professional wrestling.
Decades later, with now 74-year-old Vince McMahon still at the helm of WWE, there’s no indication his business practices from 34 years ago will suddenly change.
Despite the obstacles, Barsky is moving forward with his plan to help professional wrestling unionize.
I have been able to confirm through a source that Barsky emailed numerous professional wrestlers, professional wrestling promoters and people who are experienced in professional wrestling to get all involved parties help in officially launch professional wrestling’s first union.
I’ve also exclusively obtained a current copy of the “Performer Agreement” Barsky sent to them.
The agreement details items such as conduct, medical treatment, publicity, venue environments, illness and accidents, cancelations, recordings, accommodations, a payment schedule and even audience behavior.
Considering the history of the industry, I do wonder what potential consequences a professional wrestler may face if they’re outed as being part of this effort to unionize.
Will WWE, AEW, ROH, NWA and Impact Wrestling, among others, be okay with continuing to do business with independent contractors who support this idea?
Regardless of your opinion on unions, or of Barsky’s political views or work in professional wrestling, he’s certainly attempting to give a little power back to the people who’ve put smiles on our faces for so long.