In the latest episode of AEW star Chris Jericho’s podcast, Talk is Jericho, former Democratic presidential candidate and businessman Andrew Yang promises to change the way World Wrestling Entertainment treats its talent. Yang got involved in the public conversation about WWE on social media in September when it was revealed that the company would take control of talent’s third-party activities such as streaming on YouTube, TikTok, and Twitch.
Talent signed with WWE is considered independent contractors and not employees.
“Someone sent me the WWE contract. It’s a very long contract. The amount of control that the WWE has is incredibly high,” Yang said on the podcast. “It has made them or saved them tens of millions of dollars… hundreds of millions of dollars over the life of the company. And that money came directly from the pockets of performers.”
Yang added that “no matter what that contract says” most performers are going to sign it because getting to the WWE is a dream for many performers.
WWE’s actions against talent using third-party platforms began in early September when the company said in emails and meetings that they would have to stop using them at the beginning of October. The company later clarified that this did not apply to talent using their “real names” to stream, but then seemed to back pedal. Earlier this month Yang said that WWE talent he was speaking to told him that some were being forced to sign new contracts that included “work obligations” related to streaming.
Jericho notes that the way WWE treats talent is not equitable. Starring in the 2010 film MacGruber for a few minutes continually nets him small but regular residual checks, according to Jericho, but having hundreds of matches on WWE Network nets him nothing and “that it is unfair.”
“It’s something I’d love to help the talent with because it’s the right thing to do,” Yang said, adding that a win by Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden will be the green light he needs to take action.
“If we win I’m going to be in a position where I can call up the Secretary of Labor, or in this case, it’s the National Labor Relations Board and then bring suit against the WWE and say, ‘hey I think you are misclassifying your employees here’ and the damages here would be really significant. That is more or less the plan. We may need to have some brave performer or ex-performer come forward, and say “here are the practices.”
Yang says that he has been contacted by people who have said they believe in this and have “nothing to lose” by getting involved at this point in their careers.
“Customarily for a national labor relations board action it typically has to be an employee that initiates so that is one of the trickier elements of this, Chris, but I’m very confident that we can get there because there are a lot of people that recognize that this is wrong and it’s been going on for far too long.”
Yang went on to say that WWE talent should consider trying to join the Screen Actors Guild, which can provide them with a voice to be able to negotiate better deals and provide protections. He sees that as a strong possibility because there are many parallels to what TV actors do: learn lines, perform on television, etc.
A number of popular WWE stars spend their off-time streaming on Twitch and YouTube via their own private channels including AJ Styles (Allen Neal Jones), Adam Cole (Austin Jenkins), Tyler Breeze (Mattias Clement), Austin Creed (also known as Xavier Woods), Cesaro (Claudio Castagnoli), and many others.
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