Could be long labor fight

Could be long labor fight

Posted by Bob LeGere on Thu, 03/03/2011 - 01:23
With the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL owners and its players’ union due to expire at 11 p.m. (Chicago time) tonight, a long work stoppage appears likely. Whether the players make a pre-emptive strike by decertifying as a union or the owners lock the players out, most of the football news for a long while will be about the labor situation. It’s possible the two sides may agree to extend the current CBA and continue talking, which would be a positive step. But they’ve reported no progress after almost two weeks of federally mediated talks, so don’t get your hopes up. Another encouraging sign is the recent ruling by Federal District Judge David Doty against the owners, who arranged three years’ worth of TV contracts so that they receive $4 billion this year regardless of whether or not there are games. Doty has not ruled yet that the $4 billion goes into an escrow account, but that could happen. That would provide more incentive for the owners, since they would no longer have their slush fund. Without a new CBA, there is no free agency, and the fact that there are several hundred players set to become free agents of some sort, but who can’t be signed until a new CBA is done, gives at least some of the players a sense of urgency. Without a free-agency period, the draft at the end of April will be the last bit of football-related news for a while. And without a new agreement, even the draft choices can’t be signed or have any contact with the club after the draft is completed on April 30. Maybe the silliest argument I’ve heard from optimists who believe the two sides will reach agreement soon is that with $9 billion at stake the players and the owners will surely and swiftly find an equitable way to split the pie. That’s exactly why I don’t expect a quick settlement, because there’s so much money at stake. That, and the greed on both sides. The biggest joke of all is when the owners and players both insist that they want a new CBA as soon as possible so that the fans don’t suffer. The satisfaction of the fans might be No. 67 on the list of considerations for both sides. Right behind helping out the old-time players who helped grow the game into the cash cow that it’s become but didn’t make any of the big money and now don’t receive many of the benefits. And, as much as the players whine about how unsafe it would be to stretch the regular season to 18 games, they’d take a longer schedule in a heartbeat if it meant they got to keep the nearly 60 percent of the $9 billion after the owners get to skim their $1 billion off the top. There’s just no sense of urgency for either side yet. Owners don’t need income as much as the players. And players under contract won’t miss a paycheck until a regular-season game is canceled. That’s a long way off.
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