Theory Teacher's Blog

SEIU Sponsors International Workers Olympic Curling Team

Probably nobody has ever thought that I should try to write for America’s favorite parody newspaper, The Onion. And after this post, you might all politely suggest that I never try it again… but here goes.

SEIU Sponsors International Workers Olympic Curling Team

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) announced today that it endorses curling as the official sport of workers around the word. Says SEIU president Andy Stern, “The Olympics should be a symbol of international solidarity, not bourgeois nationalism. If the labor movement is to compete with corporations, we need to have our own teams that represent ordinary people and not wait for party politics in Washington that only represent the interest of the richest Americans.”

This competitive strategy of the SEIU is what has made it one of fastest growing labor unions in the United States at a time when most other unions have struggled to stay relevant and viable. Other Olympic athletes are all sponsored by capitalists whose interests are protected by national governments and by international agreements, and until now none have been sponsored by the labor movement who are often excluded from the democratic process of most countries.

When asked why curling, rather than some other sport, Andy Stern observed that it is a symbol of the worker’s struggle for liberation. “A bunch of us were at a bar after a rally one day, getting some beers, and everyone was watching the Olympic curling. I wondered the same question you’re wondering, “why curling?” I mean, geez, a bunch of people sweeping the ice for the sole purpose of moving this rock from one place to another. Not exactly the excitement of downhill skiing or figure skating. But then I realized that it reflected the dreams and aspirations of many of the janitors and other service workers in our union. We just want our labor to be recognized as the valuable and noble work that it is.”

Other people in the bar disagreed with Mr. Stern and suggested that curling was just fun to watch while drunk. Most of the people in the bar were not members of the union but were unemployed young men who lived with their parents.

Nevertheless, the SEIU points out that it has unionized thousands of janitors and house-keeping staff who spend much of their day sweeping the floor. Those who are not unionized often work long hours for minimum wage and no benefits. Union leaders began scouting out hotels and factories for young employees demonstrating exceptional skill with a broom for their curling team.

The leader of the new SEIU curling team, Jeff Jones, observed, “we used to all play softball together on weekends, but that was just to help bring us together in solidarity. In today’s globalized economy, we need to become global citizens, achieve global recognition, and become part of the new postmodern economy of symbolic capital. What better way to do that than have a curling team?” His unemployed friends at the bar, who were not SEIU members but knew him from college, cheered on his remark and began singing “The Internationale.”

Other members of the SEIU, however, are frustrated by the choice of curling and suggest that curling is not really an international sport. Latinos, African-Americans, and immigrants from the global south see a cultural bias. Remarked one young woman from Botswana, “where are our sports?  Why do the Olympics only reflect the culture of northern Europe? That’s not international or global or whatever you want to call it. That’s simply the hegemony of neo-colonialist capitalism and therefore curling will never be effective at uniting the workers of the world against oppression and exploitation. Most janitors and house-keeping staff are people of color, not northern Europeans. Why is Bakka-breika not an Olympic sport?”

Bakka-breika is a popular sport among the Bantu-speaking peoples of Africa. It resembles both the northern European sports of curling and horseshoe tossing in that it involves the sweeping of dust from one side of a compound to the other in order to guide a breadfruit tossed toward the tribal center. Olympic officials refused to comment on why northern European and north American sports dominate the Olympic games, but one of the janitors at the International Olympic Committee (IOC) headquarters remarked off the record that he overheard officials in the restroom dismissing Bakka-breika as savage and uncivilized. He personally has two cousins who play the sport and thinks only the cousin on his mother’s side is a little uncivilized, not the other cousin who is quite a nice fellow, but he dislikes Bakka-breika because it leads to bad posture and even long-term damage to the spine.

The future of SEIU’s curling team remains in doubt however. Since most Olympic teams represent nation states and not transnational communities or even smaller ethnic identities, its status may prove to be a legal conundrum. One member of the Irish Curling Association pointed out that curling was invented by the Druids at a time when England was asserting its imperial dominance. They support the culture of curling as an ancient and spiritually rich form of transnational resistance to imperialism. Other historians note, however, that early curling tended to be enjoyed by the wealthy elite in Scotland and Holland.

Ultimately, the status of SEIU’s curling team is up to the IOC, but whatever their decision, labor union curling might just be the wave of the future and an effective tool for organizing resistance to the fascistic, pseudo-democratic capitalism promoted by global institutions such as the IOC, IMF, and WTO.


February 28, 2010 - Posted by | global, sports

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