Leslie Smith's Labor Case Against UFC Dealt a Significant Setback

Former UFC fighter Leslie Smith has taken her fight to organize mixed martial artists to the National Labor Relations Board, but her case was dealt a significant setback following a hopeful initial reaction. Smith filed a complaint with the NLRB after the UFC paid her full show and win money, essentially buying out her contract, when her most recent opponent failed to make weight and their bout was canceled. She was supposed to have fought Aspen Ladd at UFC Fight Night 128 in April. After paying her for a fight that never happened – the final fight on her contract – the UFC also declined to re-sign her, despite Smith having won her last two bouts. Smith and her attorney, Lucas Middlebrook, essentially considered the buyout of her contract and cutting her loose retaliation for Smith's efforts to organize UFC fighters into a union. Her complaint filed with the NLRB claims that, while the UFC calls its fighters independent contractors, it acts more like an employer and should be classified by the NLRB as such, which would make organizing the athletes much easier and also subject the UFC to much stricter oversight by governmental labor regulations. Late last week, Middlebrook tweeted that the regional authority (NLRB Region 4) with which the complaint was filed found Smith's claim to hold merit and, barring a settlement, would issue a complaint against the UFC. A short time later, Middlebrook returned to Twitter, saying the case had been kicked up to the NLRB's central office in Washington D.C. for review, which he claimed was the result of the UFC pulling political strings as a stall tactic to delay responsibility in the matter.

Late today Reg. 4 informed us it had been instructed, post-decision, to send case to D.C for review. Opinion: UFC, unable to prevail on merits, pulled political strings to delay responsibility. Blatant delay tactic-Leslie will take all legal means to ensure Reg. 4 decision stands https://t.co/ldQhAzAPyV — Lucas Middlebrook (@lkmiddleb) June 30, 2018

A Bloomberg report on Monday essentially confirmed the details of the case, noting that it had been handed off to the Division of Advice at the NLRB headquarters in Washington, D.C., stating that the Division of Advice, “in part, provides guidance and instructions to the agency's regional directors in unfair labor practice cases.” While Middlebrook targeted the UFC's influence and characterized the case being shifted to Washington, D.C., as “really odd,” experts that Bloomberg spoke with seemed to think it was more a reflection of a general change of procedure…

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