Q&A with Attorney Walter Kane

30.01.04 - By Keith Terceira: As the Murad Muhammad-Freddie Roach confrontation evolved and JAB stepped to the forefront making an attempt to get to the bottom of the Manny Pacquiao purse problem, I got interested in how the Joint Association of Boxers got started and what their plans and structure were. Eddie Mustafa Muhammad is listed as the Founder of this organization, he has a passion that deserves respect from all of boxing, so when I had the opportunity to speak to Attorney Walter Kane on the issues that some in Boxing have against JAB and the affiliation with the Teamsters Union I jumped at it.

At first the explanation that I got was that JAB was to be similar to a Players Association in other Professional Sports or an AFTRA or SAG in entertainment. In a second interview done, when we addressed the meeting with Murad and JAB, I came away with more concerns and questions then with concrete answers. After you read this Q&A, I will comment on my personal issues, you the reader can make your own call.

Keith; There is a lot of people in Boxing that want to believe in an organization to help this sport. As you know people have been running around the sport for years talking about organizing a union. B.O.C has been working for a great number of years to organize as well. B.O.C has some problems with the way things went with the Teamsters can you clear these issues up?

Kane; Let me try to remember how it all got started. Paul Johnson had the B.O.C, which is not a union itís an organizing committee, we were introduced to him by Jack Newfield. Newfield asked for us to meet with him. My Brother (Danny) was an amateur boxer, and is a boxing fan. Jack Newfield had done a piece on how my brother had cleaned the mob out of Hunts Point Market. Some body told Johnson to call us or we called Johnson, my brother did I didnít. We fly Johnson out here, my brother went to his members (Teamster Local 202), the members voted to try and "HELP THE B.O.C" and they paid for his ticket to come to New York and meet with us. We talked and we tried to move the process forward and get something done. Johnson kept stalling and not getting things done.

Keith; The Boxing Organizing Committee had a problem with the Teamsters wanting to put there own person as Executive Director. Can you explain the reasoning behind that demand?

Kane; One is the Teamsters wanted someone who knew what they were doing, Two the Teamsters were going to pay that person to help the board learn how to run a Union. So if we are going to pay him, we are going to put a guy in there to teach those guys and after two years turn it over. Remember they have no dues income, you have no structure, you are literally starting from the first two boxers that say I want a union to all the way thru that process which would ultimately result in having a contract and having an organization of boxers. That is not an easy thing to do. I think that the Teamsters wanted to have somebody in there who knew what they were talking about and they agreed to limit it in time, it was only a proposal. We didnít hide it; we sent it right to Johnson. We agreed to put Johnson on as an organizer. They simply wanted some one who would have the expertise. My brotherís members couldnít accept us writing a blank check with no oversight. It would have been irresponsible.

Keith; the next issue is that the Teamsters went shopping for a spokesperson and First offered to Jose Torres, Then Tim Witherspoon, finally Eddie Mustafa Muhammad.

Kane; No, to Jose Torres, yes we did meet with him but we never offered him the job. We did offer it to Tim Witherspoon because of his background as a fighter, and his history with Mr. King. We thought that Tim could use his platform to get things rolling, and then we could come in with the resources. Tim Witherspoon wanted another guy with him and they wanted this and that. We honestly couldnít do it. They didnít want a job they wanted us to just send the money. TThere were no checks on what they wanted. It would have been irresponsible to our members. So, yes, we offered it to Tim.

Keith; The model you are using is it going to be a Union, a Teamsters Local?

Kane; I donít know if its going to be a Teamsters Local, or just a "SUBORDINANT BODY OF THE TEAMSTERS" it would be the equivalent to a local. The engineers union came into the teamsters they already had an existing international. They are talking about merging into the Teamsters. They would still keep their structure as who they are but they would become a "SUBORDINANT BODY OF THE TEAMSTERS". Even though its boxers, I donít know that we would call it a local, because its jurisdiction would be across the country. So in a sense it would be a "SUBORDINANT BODY" but not a local.

Keith; Is going to be modeled on a union or on a Players Association?

Kane; It is going to be modeled on a union. Back to the Johnson, BOC question, we have always had the intentions that this would be a boxers union run by other boxers, not run by outsiders. That it would be that the boxers would elect an executive board with a president, then the boxers would do with the organization what it is the boxers think is important. When people talk about what it is going to do, itís not necessarily up to me to make all those decisions. If they think they want to pay more dues to have a stronger organization or fewer dues then that is something they have to decide. If they want a full time staff or they want other things that is something they have to think about. Ití s their organization not mine. Of course they have certain obligations that they have to meet, and I would encourage them to have open meetings and all those things are required, to vote on officers every three years or four years, depending on whether they are a local or not a local. To have an executive board. Those things. Yes they are going to be a union that you have to be a boxer to be in. People have talked about it being cross between an NFL players union and an AFTRA. That doesnít have such a defined universe. SAG or an AFTRA you can be in a union production while you are on that set you are entitled to everything under the union. But then you can go across the street and fight in a non union production and over there he is not going to get. We think that if you create enough good structure, where fighters say they want to fight in the union fights, where they are sure they are not going to be ripped off, they are sure of certain minimums, disclosure under the Ali act.

Keith; There were releases out that Eddie Mustafa Muhammad had started the union. Is that accurate?

Kane; What the BOC had was an Idea; I can out with the Idea on what could work as far as structure under the law. Until Eddie went out and got two guys to sign union cards and to say they wanted to be in the union and started to expand on that then you didnít have a union. It takes an actual act. What anyone else has in an industry is not a union until they get people together who say they want a union. When that happens I donít care who is doing it is a union. That is what Eddie did. He talked to people and got people to do that. To me that made him the founder. He may not have been the first guy to think it through, but he was the first guy to take action.

That ended the interview but really began my questions! You see I knew of Paul Johnson and Paul was anything but an outsider. Johnson was a fighter in Minnesota, 7-5 as a professional, Paul Johnson with Jose Torres gave birth to this organizational idea with several other dedicated individuals. The reasoning behind them approaching the Teamsters was for funding. Not exclusive Funding but assistance. Instead of getting that help they wound up with a demand that they turn over the control of their work to an Executive Director appointed by the IBT. They didnít want that they wanted something in between even offering the IBT a seat on the board where they could have some oversight on the funds that IBT and OTHER UNIONS were going to assist with.

When BOC turned down the offer from the IBT it should have ended there because that is what the Teamsters in local 202 had agreed to do. Assist the B.O.C. period. I wonder if Teamster Local 202 ever voted to use their funds to start a entirely new organizations for boxing.

Mr Kane also forgot to mention that Jose Torres was at the meetings.

How the IBT suddenly took it upon themselves to start shopping for a person to lead them when they couldnít get the control they wanted from Johnson and Torres is strange at best.

According to Johnson, they went behind his back and did offer Jose the job as a "Founder". Jose said no that the B.O.C was sticking together , he had started this with Johnson and wasnít going to break things up. Tim Witherspoon gave the same answer. So IBT got together with Eddie Mustafa Muhammad. When B.O.C took their ball and went home because they wouldnít play by the rules IBT wanted IBT decided to take it upon themselves to start their own boxing union. Even going as far as naming it JAB, instead of UBA as the Boxing Organizing Committee had planned. So we have the IBT, and their attorneyís dealing in 2002 with B.O.C. long before Eddie Mustafa Muhammad was asked to lead JAB. Fact is even outsiders at IBT thought of the name JAB, asking BOC to change what they had originally planned to be UBA.

I ask Eddie Mustafa Muhammad how you can found a union that had a name, a structure, and two guys who turned downed the Founders role a year before you were hired for the job. That is what Mr. Kane called it a job. Something strange there!

As Mr. Kane admits he supposedly thought of the structure, an true outsider to boxing, not even a past pro, then they simply asked Eddie to lead their charge. As passionate as Eddie is of course he agreed. I wonder if Eddie knows what IBT means by Subordinated. Does Mr. Hoffa Jr. ultimately have the final say in what JAB can or canít do. Another outsider!

I feel it was the wrong thing for the IBT to do. They should have walked away and let B.O.C go else where for its funding, not take the ideas that they had worked years on and create their on entity to be "SUBORDINANT" to the IBT. Boxing has enough abuse from people playing that game.

I am going to have more later on this but I recommend to fighters not to sign any union cards until JAB has a structure in place, can tell you exactly what they are going to do, when elections take place, what itís going to cost you, and why fighters need to be a "SUBORDINATE" to anyone instead of an independent association. Do not allow someone the right to collectively bargain for you
that doesnít have concrete plans in writing.

Also read that card and understand if all it takes to start a union as Mr. Kane says is to have a few fighters get together and say so, then B.O.C was light years ahead of JAB. Only the B.O.C did not want the IBF running boxers any more than fighters want some Government Agency doing it. Boxers, please ask tough questions before you get involved with anyone. It is your future, and your
benefits, and you are "SUBORDINANT" to enough people. The Idea is your INDEPENDANCE

Subordinated; placed in a lower class or rank.

Article posted on 30.01.2004

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