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An usher at Progressive Field claims he was fired for not supporting a ballot measure to fund stadium upgrades

Apr 24, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT

Progressive Field

In May, voters in Cleveland will decide whether to renew a tax on alcohol and cigarette — everyone is calling it the “sin tax,” but it’s formally called Issue 7 — to fund upgrades and maintenance of Cleveland’s professional sports facilities. The tax has been in place for several years — it helped pay for the Cavaliers Arena, Progressive Field and the Browns stadium — but it’s expiring. If it passes, the new sin tax would be in effect for 20 years. While not a personal fan of any public dollars going to professional sports stadiums, at least this is being put to the voters, so do whatever you want Cleveland.

But even if democracy is at work here, there is still some unseemliness afoot. Specifically, at Progressive Field. The Indians, obviously, support Issue 7 . So much so that they are alleged to have fired an employee because he was unwilling to serve as a campaign sign for issue. From Cleveland Scene:

Edward Loomis, a former usher for the Cleveland Indians, says that the team’s campaign to get voters on its side also includes mandatory pro-Issue 7 stickers that must be worn by employees and that his refusal to wear the pro-sin tax gear led to his dismissal from his job.

Read the whole story. There is a suggestion that Loomis was fired for other reasons — there was a dispute about him coming to work on days he wasn’t scheduled — so it is possible that his refusal to wear an Issue 7 sticker while working wasn’t the real reason he was canned.

But even if he was fired for other reasons, is anyone else uncomfortable with an employer forcing its employees to wear campaign stickers like that? It’s legal in the private sector, I realize, but it’s not the sort of thing that has ever made me feel comfortable. At the very least, give people who may not agree with bringing politics into the peanut-selling business the option of remaining silent on the matter.

  1. senioreditor2 - Apr 24, 2014 at 1:47 PM

    If it’s part of the uniform, then wear it and move on, otherwise don’t work there.

    • mkd - Apr 24, 2014 at 1:53 PM

      What a spectacularly silly thing to say.

    • nomoreliesfortoday - Apr 24, 2014 at 2:22 PM

      And this is why you should never stop for beer in Cleveland.

    • nothanksimdriving123 - Apr 24, 2014 at 3:22 PM

      Argh!!! First, no one should be forced to promote a political cause they do not favor. If an employer were to require workers to promote, say, um, same-sex marriage, conservatives would be screaming about how workers’ religious freedom was being trampled.
      Next, there’s no way to know if the employer’s claims about this worker have any merit. We all should know that a zealous boss can always find “legitimate” grounds to fire anyone. Requests by outsiders for evidence will run into “we can’t comment on a personnel issue”.

      • Jim Abbott's Right-Hand Man - Apr 24, 2014 at 8:34 PM

        Not a legal expert, but if they make it part of the uniform, I dunno what kind of leg you have to stand on in refusing to wear it while you’re on the clock.

        If a TSA agent is a gun enthusiast whose personal politics support the idea that everybody ought to be able to have a gun on them at all times, can he expect to keep his job even if he refuses to screen passengers for weapons?

        If a cook at a restaurant refuses to include meat in any of the meat dishes they patrons order because it conflicts with their personal politics regarding the ethical treatment of animals, can they expect to keep their job?

  2. Matthew Pouliot - Apr 24, 2014 at 1:54 PM

    The Indians have the broadcast crew promoting this during games, too. Rather unseemly, I thought.

    • historiophiliac - Apr 24, 2014 at 2:34 PM

      The Indians unseemly? What? No.

      • El Bravo - Apr 24, 2014 at 2:49 PM

        I thought they were Redskins.

      • El Bravo - Apr 24, 2014 at 2:50 PM

        Doesn’t that sounds profoundly racist in this context? Context is everything I guess.

    • jeffkx - Apr 24, 2014 at 3:32 PM

      Cavs announcers were promoting it too during the season.

  3. genericcommenter - Apr 24, 2014 at 2:46 PM

    It’s one of those things where it’s probably bad but not necessarily illegal, and not everything legal is good and not everything illegal is bad.

    I’m a little more uncomfortable with the local news media pushing tax hike agendas and using scare tactics. I remember a few years ago when another city in Ohio (where I live) was trying to double the city income tax, the local news would regularly run “news” segments hyping up the (fairly low) crime and tell viewers that if they didn’t support tax increases that the city police would refuse to respond to burglaries. Of course that made me less likely to support it, since I’m not a fan of shooting dogs and other assorted negligence that typically accompanies police involvement.

  4. Gator Hater - Apr 24, 2014 at 3:05 PM

    The tax amounts to:

    9 cents for a six-pack of beer;
    A little more than 6 cents for a 750-milliliter bottle of wine;
    79 cents for a liter of liquor;
    4.5 cents for a pack of cigarettes.

    If you drink or smoke enough that these taxes will drain your budget, you my friend, have a problem.

    Also, the stadiums get this money from the city of Cleveland regardless if this tax is approved. So if it doesn’t pass, other city functions are going to lose money.

    • Liam - Apr 24, 2014 at 3:11 PM

      I don’t think the issue anyone here is expressing is with the tax itself, but that it seems like the Indians are promoting it in ways that aren’t illegal, but morally questionable.

      • Gator Hater - Apr 24, 2014 at 3:18 PM

        I thought this is the blog where we don’t have problem with PED users in the hall of fame because we shouldn’t be the “morality police”. So does the morality police only flash their badge for certain topics….

        Anyway I was just listing the facts of the tax because I assumed people out side of the area probably are not familiar. Just adding a layer to the conversation.

      • [citation needed] fka COPO - Apr 24, 2014 at 3:40 PM

        I thought this is the blog where we don’t have problem with PED users in the hall of fame because we shouldn’t be the “morality police”. So does the morality police only flash their badge for certain topics….

        No, it’s people never cared about PED use before, so why should they now.

    • dnc6 - Apr 24, 2014 at 3:27 PM

      Or we can not pass taxes to help out the billionaire sports owners around town.

      If this tax doesn’t pass, the county isn’t going to throw up it’s hands and go “oh well, we’re not going to fix the streets for 20 years now I guess”. They’ll find an alternative, a better one.

    • dnc6 - Apr 24, 2014 at 3:27 PM

      Or we can not pass taxes to help out the billionaire sports owners around town.

      If this tax doesn’t pass, the county isn’t going to throw up it’s hands and go “oh well, we’re not going to fix the streets for 20 years now I guess”. They’ll find an alternative.

      • Gator Hater - Apr 24, 2014 at 3:40 PM

        An alternative?? Have you ever been to Cleveland? Most city streets look like they haven’t been fixed in 20 years. And no, they won’t take all the lost money from one area. All city functions will suffer: education, street up keep, policeman/fireman, etc.

      • dnc6 - Apr 24, 2014 at 3:55 PM

        Have I been to Cleveland? Let me walk outside the office and double check. Yup, still here.

        It is absolutely naive to think that officials who get elected into office will let city functions suffer instead of finding a way to put their hand in someone else’s pocket.

  5. joebialek - Apr 24, 2014 at 4:25 PM

    This issue is the absurdity of absurdities. Let me get this straight: the purpose of the Sin Tax is to gouge those who purchase alcohol and cigarettes not because anyone is trying to discourage consumption but rather so the County can use that money to pay for sports stadiums that do not produce anything but a fleeting moment witnessing the passing of a football, the dribbling of a basketball and the throwing of a baseball so that such a minute tidbit of diversion can be enjoyed by all. The stupidity of this proposition is enough to make your head spin even though the spin doctors advocating passage of this nonsense are already doing a pretty good job of hypnotizing the voters to actually consider supporting it. At least the Robber Barons of the previous centuries provided something tangible such as oil, steel, railroads etcetera. These team owners do not even provide one tangible thing that could ever be considered with the term “value added.” Almost everyone discusses this “enterprise” as though it is the same thing as industry {which it is not}. The price of admission is essentially a voluntary tax paid by those who can afford it to pay those who don’t need it. If this isn’t a transfer of wealth I don’t know what is.

    The real outrage here is the fact that taxes on alcohol and cigarettes will not be used to aid in the reduction of addiction {hence the reference to “sin”} but rather to stuff the pockets of all three teams who could easily afford to pay for the repairs themselves. The vote was rammed through the last time {under somewhat suspicious circumstances} and hear we go again. But this time…not so fast!!! We the voters of Cuyahoga County are going to fight the proponents on this one and we don’t care if the teams up and go somewhere else {please see my views on entertainment below} because quite frankly there are simply more important things than sports and the unearned money that comes with it. Those in public office who are too stupid and lazy to find other ways to grow a major American city need to resign and leave their self-seeking political ambitions on the scrapheap of history. Don’t ever let it be said that this was time when the tide ran out on Cuyahoga County but rather was the time when the voters rose up to welcome the rising tide of change and rebuked this pathetic paradigm our previous elected leaders embraced. Let the battle be joined.

    And now to the real underlying issue at hand:

    One of the most disturbing facts about our capitalist nation is the misappropriation of funds directed to the salaries of entertainers. Everyone should agree that the value an athlete, movie star, talk-show host, team-owner, etcetera brings to the average citizen is very small. Granted, they do offer a minuscule of diversion from our daily trials and tribulations as did the jesters in the king’s court during the middle ages. But to allow these entertainers to horde such great amounts of wealth at the expense of more benevolent societal programs is unacceptable. They do not provide a product or a service so why are they rewarded as such?

    Our society is also subjected to the “profound wisdom” of these people because it equates wealth with influence. Perhaps a solution to this problem and a alternative to defeated school levies, crumbling infrastructures, as well as all the programs established to help feed, clothe and shelter those who cannot help themselves would be to tax this undeserved wealth. Entertainers could keep 1% of the gross earnings reaped from their endeavor and 99% could be deposited into the public coffers.

    The old ideas of the redistribution of wealth have failed, and it is time to adapt to modern-day preferences. People put their money into entertainment above everything else; isn’t it time to tap that wealth? Does anyone think this will reduce the quality of entertainment? It seems to me that when entertainers received less income, the quality was much higher.

    • moogro - Apr 24, 2014 at 5:25 PM

      No one with talent would play sports professionally for $1,000,000 a year or want to own teams that generate less than $10,000,000 a year profit. Everyone in the world would just walk away from that, leaving us spectators with nothing.

      • gloccamorra - Apr 25, 2014 at 12:10 AM

        In Ancient Rome, the rich paid for the bread and circuses, and the talented gladiators were mostly slaves. Of course, the rich only did it so the hungry mobs wouldn’t torch their villas, but that’s a great motivation for civic-mindedness.

    • jwbiii - Apr 24, 2014 at 8:27 PM

      I don’t think that a 100% tax rate on incomes over $5k is going to fly or is even reasonable. That is exactly what you are proposing, the MLB minimum is $500k. In theory, your proposal would also tax minor leaguers (minimum salary: $2,475, so they would be allowed to keep $24.75 for a season). The highest marginal US tax rate was 94% in 1944-45. That was on incomes over $200k. Inflation adjusted, that was $2.6m. We have politicians up in arms about the national debt and complaining about the “high” marginal tax rates, 39.6% on incomes over $440k, so your proposal is unlikely to gain any traction.


    • Gator Hater - Apr 25, 2014 at 7:39 AM

      ” the purpose of the Sin Tax is to gouge those who purchase alcohol and cigarettes not because anyone is trying to discourage consumption but rather so the County can use that money to pay for sports stadiums that do not produce anything but a fleeting moment witnessing the passing of a football, the dribbling of a basketball and the throwing of a baseball so that such a minute tidbit of diversion can be enjoyed by all.”

      Gouge???? If you smoke a pack a day you will spend about 15 bucks a year on this tax. If you consider this gouging, you my friend need a new job.

    • Gator Hater - Apr 25, 2014 at 7:53 AM

      So you believe sports are unimportant but you are giving your political views on a sports blog…….Interesting. Anyway, sports may be trivial, but in the long term they bring a lot of revenue to a city. If the Cavs, Indians and Browns leave town…..No one is coming downtown. Local businesses and the city suffers.

      And you want to tax the “entertainers” 99%. Why would anyone bust there butts all year long to give all there money back to the public.

  6. anxovies - Apr 24, 2014 at 5:20 PM

    “There is a suggestion that Loomis was fired for other reasons.” Isn’t there always whenever an employee gets fired for some unlawful or abusive reason?

  7. spursareold - Apr 24, 2014 at 5:24 PM

    “You know what, Stan, if you want me to wear 37 pieces of flair, like your pretty boy over there, Brian, why don’t you just make the minimum 37 pieces of flair? “

    • Kevin Gillman - Apr 24, 2014 at 5:39 PM

      As soon as I read this, that classic movie was on my mind. Thank you for what you put there.

  8. yahmule - Apr 24, 2014 at 5:46 PM

    This is the kind of bullying that wealthy individuals consider part of normal everyday interaction with people they deem beneath their station in life. How many owners of companies sent out emails promising big layoffs if Obama was elected?

  9. djandujar - Apr 24, 2014 at 5:49 PM

    I used to work for Whole Foods. During a store meeting in which they had a breakfast line, I cracked a joke “the only difference between Communism and Capitalism is that you have to pay at the end of one of the food lines.” An employee ratted me out to the store manager and he came to chat with me. He asked me if I was a Communist. I answered “it’s none of your business, but yes.” I was fired for “violating the lateness policy”. (One morning soon after my car broke down. I called them to let them know what was happening and that I’d be there in an hour, which I was and it seemed to be not a problem).
    My two points: One is that they can always make reasons to fire whoever they want. Two is that they fired me for my politics. And this is that “liberal” bastion of Whole Foods. (They are visciously anti-union).

    • Reflex - Apr 24, 2014 at 6:55 PM

      I have nothing but contempt for Whole Foods. They are happy to reap the benefits of pseudoscience around medicines and foods while massively overcharging for food that is not appreciably any higher quality or healthier. Making money off of unfounded fear is despicable. In my state they demonstrated their love of pseudoscience that helps the bottom line when they put massive funds into an attempt to try to get GMO’s labeled for no realistic reason.

      • djandujar - Apr 24, 2014 at 7:46 PM

        I am one of those organics buyers (hippie/commie). And I am vehemently anti-GMO in my food choices. But I buy from local farms & co-ops. It must also be noted that Whole Foods built their empire on money made from investing in the weapons industry.

      • Reflex - Apr 25, 2014 at 3:34 AM

        There is no such thing as non-GMO food. There has not been for around 10,000 years. Nothing humans eat today is remotely as it appeared originally or was first consumed as. It is all the product of selective breeding, hybridization and often exposures to known mutagens, something farmers have done for thousands of years. Modern GMO is far safer than historical methods, which often resulted in things like potatoes that could randomly kill you (seriously).

        You may believe you are avoiding GMO in your food choices. You are not. I’m fine with GMO labeling as long as everything is labeled. Because it is all GMO. Except now we can do it in a controlled, testable and far safer fashion.

        As for Whole Foods, like I said, they are willing to promote and profit from anti-scientific unfounded fears. That they made money in the weapons industry would not surprise me. Charlatans rarely care who they exploit or injure in seeking money from the gullible.

        Side note: Hippie/commie has nothing to do with GMO. One can be opposed to Monsanto and still understand that there is nothing inherently harmful about GMO crops even if the business model is hated. One can support local seasonal food, organic farming practices, humane treatment of both the land and animals, and recognize that GMO’s themselves are not a problem. In fact, GMO’s enable better treatment of the land by reducing water consumption, pesticide use and fertilizer requirements while providing higher levels of nutrition and a safer yield. A trap I often see people fall into is that their hatred of a company, political entity or ideal will often blind them to the benefits of something they view as tied to those interests they dislike. Monsanto has done plenty of evil things, ADM is arguably worse. But throwing the baby out with the bath water is silly, GM products are a net benefit for mankind and I’d rather work on improving the downsides of them (monoculture for instance) and increasing access to the patented genes that these mega corps control than forgo all of the upside that such crops offer mankind as a whole.

        And I certainly do not wish to do anything to benefit the fear mongers cashing in on and encouraging ignorance and scientific illiteracy.

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