Jim Cornette welcomed attorney Scott Williams to his popular MLW Radio podcast, The Jim Cornette Experience, this week to discuss the newest WWE lawsuit over concussion issues experienced by past talent.
While the tennis racket-toting manager who rose to prominence in the Southern territories of the 1980s felt the attorney pursuing the case wouldn’t be up for the challenge — he has lost prior cases against the WWE — the lawsuit raised an interesting point on what it means to be an independent contractor.
WWE considers most of its talent as independent contractors, which means said talent is ineligible for the company’s usual benefits packages and some have complained of having to pay for their own travel and lodging while on location for the company.
To Jim Cornette and Scott Williams, this relationship is questionable at best.
Cornette claimed that current WWE talent would no longer fit the description, drawing a contrast to territory wrestlers from the 1980s and before.
“In the old days, talent owned their costumes, their intellectual property, their gimmicks. They were not employees and could wrestle anywhere they wanted to, and that just is not case in today’s WWE.”
— Rodney Este (@The_Rod) July 28, 2016
To go with the point raised by Jim Cornette, Williams said that while the definition of an independent contractor can be “nebulous,” the IRS has a “20-factor test” to decide, which would include “who controls the work you’re doing, and whether the workers have to comply with the boss’s instruction about when, where, and how they work.”
“WWE tells them what to wear to the ring, what their names are going to be. They don’t have control over any of that.”
With the Performance Center, WWE also provides training, Williams said — another factor that would go against the independent contractor statuses of most talent.
Jumping onto that point, Jim Cornette said the control that WWE exhibits over its talent also extends to personal appearances and publicity interviews, and that talent he knows “can’t just do an interview with a TV reporter, or go on a podcast.”
Cornette alleged one incident where a MLW Radio colleague had tried inviting some talent over to his house and went through the proper WWE channels, even offering to pay for the talent’s time, but they were pulled at the last minute by the company.
Bringing it home, Jim Cornette asked the question of what difference it made how the talent was distinguished and summed it up like this.
“Basically the whole reasoning of this, is that you’re not eligible for insurance, benefits, retirement accounts, or any of the perks that employees of other companies get…. WWE could afford it. At no point has a company had more control over its talent so to still consider talent independent contractors is absurd. They’re like Republicans. They cling to old way of doing things when and if it benefits them.”
PREVIOUS JIM CORNETTE COVERAGE FROM THE INQUISITR:
To be fair, WWE did not have any representatives on the Jim Cornette Experience to defend the company position, but that’s in part because Cornette is not in good standing with the company, and it’s unlikely they would have accepted an invitation.
Regardless, though, the point he raises is pertinent.
— Ewan (@ewanwhufc) July 19, 2016
Just using social security and medicare as an example, a self-employed person would have to pay double that of an employee for the same benefits, and they do not have the option of pulling out of the system.
As an example of what that would mean to your bottom line, find your latest pay stub, look at the year-to-date for both of these line items, then double it.
That’s what a self-employed person must do, and the same is currently true for many hoping to work for the WWE.
With that said, what do you think of the point that Jim Cornette raises? Is it unfair to talent and should WWE start paying their workers as employees if they are going to treat them as such? Sound off in the comments section below.