Cheerleaders in California have something to celebrate this week, with Governor Jerry Brown signing a bill that gives them the workers rights and protections they've been fighting for.
The new law came about after the Oakland Raiders' cheerleaders sued the team in January last year for being underpaid and for not having benefits or sick leave. The team settled the lawsuit in September last year, paying out $1.25 million in wages.
"I know we're just cheerleaders to people, but we're low-wage workers working for a billion-dollar industry. It shows everyone that one little girl who stood up and said, 'This is not right,' changed the way the Raiders do business," Lacy S., one of the Raiderette cheerleaders, told CBS Sports after the settlement in September last year.
The new law, which will mean cheerleaders must be payed at least California's minimum wage of $9/hour and be eligible for benefits, will take effect at the start of next year. The long hours, high pressure, and strenuous conditions that women in the profession work under are common knowledge–some of that even comes across in the reality show Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team, entering its tenth season this year.
The NFL has maintained that cheerleaders are not its direct employees, but rather independent contractors, meaning they are subject to whatever state laws apply. "Teams are advised to follow state and federal employment laws," an NFL spokesperson told Fox 411 in a statement. "Under those laws, team cheerleaders are not employed by the league."
Cheerleaders for at least four other sports teams have sued team management over their wages and protections like sick leave, including the New York Jets, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals.
Following the Buffalo Jills lawsuit in New York, there's a bill similar to the one in California being considered by the state. "Sports teams and owners should not continue to capitalize without providing the most basic workplace protections," Assemblywoman Lily Rozic, the bill's sponsor in the New York State Assembly, told CNN Money.