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Chargers Cheerleaders Get Pay Raise For Last Game Of Season

Credit: Associated Press / Denis Poroy

San Diego Chargers cheerleaders perform as the team plays the New England Patriots during the first half in an NFL football game on Dec. 7, 2014 in San Diego.

Aired 1/4/16 on KPBS News.

The San Diego Charger Girls got a pay raise on Sunday.

The San Diego Charger Girls got a pay raise on Sunday.

A law went into effect on Jan. 1 requiring all California sports teams to give their cheerleaders at least the state minimum wage. That wage also rose at the start of 2016 from $9 to $10 an hour.

That meant the Chargers' cheerleaders only got the bump in pay for one game this season, Sunday's loss to the Denver Broncos. Next season, the cheerleaders will continue to be paid the minimum wage as long as the team remains in California.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, a San Diego Democrat, wrote the law and said even if the Chargers move to Los Angeles their cheerleaders will still get the minimum wage.

"We will ensure that those women up and down the state are treated as employees. They’ll be able to earn workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance, sick days and, of course, a minimum wage. And this is long, long overdue," Gonzalez told KPBS Midday Edition last week.

Gonzalez had asked the Chargers and other California sports teams to begin paying their cheerleaders the higher wage at the start of the season instead of waiting until the law took effect on Jan. 1.

A Chargers spokesman passed along a question of whether the team would pay its cheerleaders at the start of the season to a third-party contractor, the event planning company E2K.

Erin Olmstead, E2K's president, did not return multiple calls and emails from KPBS.

Previously, the team's Charger Girls were treated as independent contractors and paid $75 a game, Gonzalez said. Cheerleaders are not paid for their time spent practicing or appearing at promotional events.

In New York, state Assemblywoman Nily Rozic and state Sen. Diane Savino, both Democrats, are proposing legislation similar to what Gonzalez got passed in California.

Gonzalez said the legislation in California and New York, along with lawsuits from cheerleaders against their teams for wage theft in several states, should spur the National Football League to make a new policy for all its teams requiring them to pay cheerleaders the minimum wage.

"They should, with their record on women lately, want to get out in front of this and demand that their teams treat women with just a little bit of respect," she said. "We would never tolerate shortchanging women at any other workplace. And an NFL game should be no different."

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