Last week U.S. Soccer filed a lawsuit against the Women's National Team Player's Association (WNTPA). Monday, the WNTPA filed their motion in response.
Way back in 2012 the Collective Bargaining Agreement that governed the relationship between the WNT and U.S. Soccer expired. U.S. Soccer alleges a new CBA was agreed to in 2013 (according to The Equalizer it was drafted but never signed) that expires at the end of 2016. The WNTPA disagrees - they say they agreed to an MOU - a Memorandum of Understanding that maintained the status quo from 2012 but that does not extend the previous CBA and doesn't not have a set term limit.
Yeah, it is. You see, the WNT has never had more negotiating power than it has right now - fresh off a World Cup victory, a ticker tape parade, Carli Lloyd's Player of the Year award - and the Olympics are just months away. After that, there are no big competitions on the docket until 2019. It behooves the WNT to try to craft a new CBA now so they have the best leverage to get what they want.
But U.S. Soccer thinks thinks this is a full CBA and doesn't expire until the end of this year. It is certainly in their best interest to wait until then, until the off-cycle starts, to negotiate.
But why the court action?
Good question. The WNTPA hired themselves some new lawyers who are a bit more aggressive than past representation. Depending on who you believe, the WNT has been trying to get a new CBA done and maybe said they miiiiight go on strike to ensure their CBA demands are met. U.S. Soccer claims that is a threat of labor action prohibited by the CBA and is asking the court to confirm that. For their part, the PA's lawyers say they never threatened to strike, only that they weren't giving up the ability to do so.
And that's why this has ended up in court. If one believes the WNT is operating under a full CBA that expires on 12/31/16, they can't strike. If one believes they do not have an active CBA, they have the option to strike in order to get the USSF to negotiate a new CBA now.
So U.S. Soccer filed a motion asking the court to confirm the CBA is in effect. As you might imagine, the PA filed a motion in return. And the language they used hit harder than an Abby Wambach
dive header. (Read it here).
So what's next?
Next we go to court. U.S. Soccer wants an "expedited hearing," as they fear the upcoming Olympics are in jeopardy. The PA's response is basically "we're not going to strike so all this is pointless" coupled with a good dose of "you guys have known for months what we want but won't work with us, so tough luck." Ultimately it's up to a judge to decide if the MOU is an MOU or a CBA.
So what's your take on all this?
I'm not a lawyer so take from this what you will. But after reading some of the filings it seems the WNTPA has the edge and my guess is the'll "win" the challenge in that the court will rule they are not operating under an active CBA. But U.S. Soccer resorting to a court action rather than negotiating off the bat is only going to make this process more contentious. Ultimately the optics are terrible, relationships have frayed, and no one is really winning here.
And to add to the rancor, in their initial filing U.S. Soccer failed to redact the home addresses and email addresses of some of the players. The team was none too pleased about that.
As an added bonus this action has the potential to affect the upcoming NWSL season, as NT players are paid by U.S. Soccer and those contracts are indeed with U.S. Soccer rather than NWSL teams themselves.
For my money, it ticks me off when I hear about how the 3-time World Cup champions have to fly coach while the men fly business class... or how the MNT got paid per point in the WC but the women didn't... or the bonus disparity. I side with the team.
This isn't the first time the WNT has stood up to U.S. Soccer to get the benefits they think they deserve. Question is, will they be able to negotiate now while they are in a position of strength, or have to wait until the end of the year after the Olympic frenzy has waned and woso begins to fade out once again?