Sammy Nickalls
Updated Jul 17, 2015 @ 7:51 am

California professional cheerleaders just scored a MAJOR win when state governor Jerry Brown approved legislation recognizing them as employees who are entitled to minimum wage. Clearly, this should have already been a thing, but it wasn’t. . . until AB202 was signed on Wednesday.

The legislation now deems professional cheerleaders as workers instead of contractors, according to ESPN. This provides them not only with minimum wage, but with overtime, sick leave, and labor protections available to team staff. The bill, which will come into effect in 2016, was first introduced by assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez after a wage-theft lawsuit filed by Oakland Raiderette cheerleaders.

“We would never tolerate [short-changing] of women workers at any other workplace,” Gonzalez said in a statement, according to ESPN. “An NFL game should be no different.”

Raiders cheerleaders were being paid less than five dollars per hour, and they weren’t being paid for hours of rehearsals and public appearances, according to attorney Sharon Vinick. On top of all of that, cheerleaders are expected to pay for their own transportation and personal appearances, which inevitably adds up to thousands of dollars. Obviously, transportation is essential for cheerleaders to be able to follow an NFL team to their many games around the nation; not to mention that NFL cheerleaders have unbelievably ridiculous beauty and hygiene standards they’re forced to maintain to keep the job — yet they’re also forced to pay for all of it out of pocket with their less-than-minimum-wage salary.

“People really thought we had it good, that we were paid well and had this luxurious lifestyle,” Jills (the Buffalo Bills’ cheer squad) member Maria told the New York Times last December. “Seriously? I ended up feeling like a piece of meat.”

Though dozens of Raiders cheerleaders, as well as Tampa Bay Buccaneers cheerleaders, won a $1.25 million settlement, it was clear that something more permanent had to be done. As Vinick explained to ESPN via a telephone interview on Wednesday, the Raiders cheerleaders were fully in support of the bill, but they have always believed they should be considered employees — not just contractors. “This is just icing on the cake,” Vinick told ESPN of AB202.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy also spoke up to ESPN, claiming that the league is not in charge of the employment of their cheerleaders. “Teams are advised to follow state and federal employment laws,” he told ESPN in an email.

The California cheerleading law is thought to be the first of its kind in the nation, though a similar bill in New York is currently pending. We genuinely hope AB202 will serve as the spark that will start a much-needed fire, because this sort of sexist injustice needs to end.

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