The United States Soccer Federation sued the union representing Women’s National Team members in federal court Wednesday, an action sure to further fray the already strained bond between the two groups.
The collective bargaining agreement between the players and federation expired in 2012, but in March 2013 they signed a new agreement, which doesn’t expire until December 2016. The validity of this new agreement is at the heart of the dispute.
In the court filing. U.S. Soccer says that the new collective bargaining agreement consists of two documents. One is the old collective bargaining agreement, and the second is a memorandum of understanding updating some of the portions of that agreement, such as pay and other provisions. Importantly, the lawsuit notes, the agreement has a no-strike clause, which was not modified by the MOU.
In 2014 the Players Association hired a new executive director, Richard Nichols. According to the lawsuit, on Christmas Eve of last year he sent a letter to U.S. Soccer declaring that the agreement would expire in 60 days, on February 24, 2016. This would allow the players to strike during the upcoming National Women’s Soccer League season and/or the Rio Olympics, giving them increased leverage to negotiation improved terms. The lawsuit also says that U.S. Soccer and Nichols had a meeting today, in which he refused to rule out a strike.
After news of the suit was first reported by the New York Times, U.S. Soccer released the following statement:
It certainly seems like U.S. Soccer has a strong case—they point to both emails as well as court testimony from the former Players Association executive director confirming that the agreement doesn’t expire until December 2016—but without hearing from the Players Association it is impossible to tell. They have yet to file anything or release a statement, and the Times wasn’t able to reach Nichols.
The Women’s National Team and U.S. Soccer have had a worsening relationship over the years. U.S. stars sued FIFA over artificial turf fields used for the 2015 Women’s World Cup, and the issue continued to linger on the U.S. Soccer-organized celebration tour, resulting in a match that was to be played on awful turf at Aloha Stadium being cancelled. There have also been longstanding complaints that the women—who are significantly more successful than their male counterparts—get paid much less.
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