It’s just business.
Liz Carmouche is no longer under contract with the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Her job description for the company was “cage fighting against other professional athletes,” but it’s awkward to say that she was “fired” or “laid off” from it, exactly. The UFC has done considerable lobbying, labor law gymnastics, and anti-union posturing to ensure that its fighters are locked into one-sided contracts where they are technically not considered employees, but instead, independent contractors. The promotion has applied the precarity of the gig economy to giving and taking a beating.
Carmouche is undeniably capable. She is 13–7 in her career with wins over several good names and .500 in the UFC, including the company’s first women’s fight vs. Ronda Rousey. She’d gone 4–2 since 2015 and was 5th in the women’s flyweight division in the organization’s own equivocal rankings. Career advancement within the UFC has only ever been marginally based on sporting merit, though. The exact reasons why she was let go — Her most recent, uninspiring title fight defeat to Valentina Shevchenko? Or the rationale Carmouche told Ariel Helwani she was given, that she was beating too many 125-pound contenders? — are not something the UFC is required to provide. Depending on Carmouche’s individual contract, that single loss to Shevchenko may have been all the justification needed. Her former bosses do whatever they want with few checks or balances, a handful of people make a lot of money in the process, and everyone else hopes for their piece of driftwood to get lifted by the tide before their bodies exhaust their usefulness.
According to MMA Junkie, UFC officials claim the people responsible for the decision did not know that Carmouche had already traveled to Washington D.C. to do promotional appearances for the company. The news did not trickle down to her until she finally received notice from her management, also per her conversation with Helwani, while in a car with other fighters and a UFC executive, after leaving a hospital where they had visited chemotherapy patients. On the same day, the UFC posted a picture of Carmouche, a Marine Corps veteran, and the other fighters to Instagram, with the caption “An honor to spend the day with the brave men and women who serve our country 🇺🇸 [sic] #UFCDC.”
In the vague window when Carmouche had lost her job but not yet found out about it, the United Parcel Service Twitter account was posting a statement. In Miramar, Florida, two suspects had allegedly robbed a jewelry store and eventually fled in a UPS truck with the driver held hostage. When the truck stopped in heavy traffic, law enforcement made the decision that escalating the situation was more important than any other concerns. They approached the truck, some video apparently showing them using occupied civilian vehicles as cover, and moments later a crowded roadway was sprayed with gunfire. A hail of those rounds came from the police. When the shots subsided four people were dead.
As of yet it is unclear who fired the bullets that killed Lamar Alexander and Ronnie Jerome Hill, Richard Cutshaw, who just happened to be driving nearby, and Frank Ordonez, the driver working in the UPS truck that was hijacked. It’s fairly straightforward, though, who decided to close on the vehicle with guns drawn, despite the existence of a hostage and a rush hour’s worth of potential collateral damage. And there should be no confusion about the history of unnecessary force and preference for defending capital from that particular arm of the state. Before it was deleted, the final sentence of the original Twitter statement from Ordonez’s employer, UPS, read, “We appreciate law enforcement’s service and will cooperate with the authorities as they continue the investigation.” The updated tweet that replaced it kept the passive, unattributed “senseless act of violence” wording but did not explicitly thank the cops for their role in the on-the-job death of one of their employees.
UPS will not demand accountability from the police state, because the police state exists in part to protect the property that they are shipping worldwide, and taking those kinds of stands has rarely been good for business. In this calculation, Frank Ordonez is one of hundreds of thousands of interchangeable logistics resources in a vast supply chain and is only as human as is good for public relations purposes. The UFC will not be constrained by things like loyalty, or even basic decency, because loyalty is what independent contractors and fans are supposed to show their benefactors, and decency doesn’t sell pay per views. The UFC and UPS are, above and beyond anything else, for-profit.
At the risk of stating the obvious, which this whole piece runs, Hearst Magazines are not discouraging their employees from organizing because they are worried about the best interests of their people. They did not construct a shameless, anti-union website because the erroneous information there will improve their labor force’s quality of life. If the 24 brands under their umbrella all unionized with Writers Guild of America East, as they have announced their intention to do, it would give their workers a massive amount of collective bargaining leverage for better pay, treatment, and conditions which very well might cut into C-level executive salaries and ownership profits. As you can imagine, they find this concerning.
As detailed by Zoe Schiffer for The Verge, start-up luggage brand Away did not create a corporate culture of overwork and toxic, obsessive fealty to the brand for any other reason but to widen their margins while selling as many suitcases as possible. The talk of values and ideals, empowerment and customer focus, is all in the service of minimal overhead to move units. The motivational jargon is built to obscure the fact that at the end of the day we are talking about luggage. The only revolution occurring is the possibility that someone might buy from Away, instead of, say, Samsonite, and the people who benefit from the vision are co-founders Jen Rubio and Steph Korey, and the usual collection of venture capitalists.
These are exceptionally callous examples. There are, no doubt, companies with more or less egregious morals and relationships between managers and their reports can vary wildly. The people who populate sprawling org charts are people after all, and many of them, even higher up the directory tree, have empathy for their coworkers and lines they won’t cross. But these are, by nature, secondary considerations. In a previous life, I worked for a giant retailer, who beyond its global money-making operations, also did some philanthropy. The billionaire owner of the company liked to use variations on the phrase, “When we do well, we can do good.” The priorities there give the game away.
In diverse political circles, venerating entrepreneurship and job creation are shibboleths. But at any sort of scale, business owners and executives are agents of a balance sheet that they reap the spoils of. Our bosses do not care about us, not because they are inhumane monsters, but because ledgers and markets do not run on caring. Affection toward labor is antithetical to how businesses work. Our bosses do not care about us because the system doesn’t allow them to. It’s nothing that a surprise holiday bonus or a gift to a local charity will ever remedy. The problem isn’t one of business ethics; the problem is business.