View Full Version : Steelers players vote to decertify union

10-06-2010, 09:19 PM
Steelers players vote to decertify union

Wednesday, October 06, 2010
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Steelers players this afternoon voted unanimously to decertify their union, after a meeting with NFL Players Association leaders at the team's UPMC training facility.

DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the union, met with players after practice today and then took a vote to decertify the NFLPA.

Smith has been taking such votes as he meets with players around the league and so far, in a handful of votes, all have been unanimous.

The union is making the move to decertify as a procedural effort in case the NFL owners lock the players out when the current collective bargaining agreement expires next March.

The NFLPA decertified as a union in 1987 after the last players' strike, a move that eventually proved successful in their attempts to forge a new CBA that resulted in free agency in 1993.

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10-06-2010, 10:04 PM
Steelers vote to decertify union in case of a lockout

By Carl Prine and Scott Brown, PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Steelers voted unanimously Wednesday to decertify the NFL Players Association as their union, a move designed to send a message to team owners threatening a lockout that the players remain united.

The vote came after a surprise visit Tuesday by NFL vice president for player development Troy Vincent, the former NFLPA president who has been accused of colluding with owners to scuttle the union when he was in it.

In Pittsburgh to record the decertification vote, union executive director DeMaurice Smith alleged the NFL was using Vincent and former NFL Alumni director George Martin to divide players. Smith said the ploy won't work.

"Players have been warned from Day One that the NFL and the owners always try to turn players against other players. It continues," Smith said. "Sending two former union members who are now on their payroll to talk about 'life skills,' talk about a strike instead of a lockout and avoid the whole issue of the NFL canceling player health care is insulting."

Outgoing Steelers union representative Charlie Batch and new rep Ryan Clark echoed Smith.

"It was confusing to me and my teammates as to why they would send NFL employees in to talk about life skills during this time," Batch said.

Vincent, 39, was hit in July with a subpoena seeking information about his communications with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and others. The subpoena is tied to a lawsuit by Mary Moran, the union's former director of human resources who claims she was fired because she served as a confidential witness for the Department of Labor during its ongoing investigation into allegations of tampering and retaliation.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the union also has issued subpoenas to Goodell and Vincent seeking depositions about the allegations, but the NFL isn't a party in the lawsuit.

Aiello said neither Vincent nor Martin represented "the NFL in contract negotiations or in any aspect of collective bargaining." He insisted owners would continue to work to get a deal done before the collective bargaining agreement expires in March.

As long as the union exists and players work under a negotiated CBA, owners can retain antitrust exemptions such as revenue sharing and wage caps uniquely provided to professional sports teams by Congress. But if the union commits suicide before March, players can sue the NFL to block a threatened lockout.

That threat to eliminate the union has been reinforced in recent weeks by decertification votes by the New Orleans Saints, Cincinnati Bengals, New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers, among other teams.

"We are well aware that the union is traveling the country making preparations to be in position to decertify and go out of business," Aiello said. "Our focus is on negotiating a new agreement with the union. The longer it goes, the tougher it will be, and we are not even sure if this union plans on continuing to be a union."

Minnesota antitrust attorney Clark C. Griffith, a former part-owner of the Twins who served on Major League Baseball's Players Relations Committee, said it likely won't get to that point. He said the drum roll of decertification votes actually signals a loud statement of solidarity by the players not necessarily a workable strategy.

"It's merely P.R.," said Griffith, who teaches sports law at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul. "The people they're negotiating with know it's a sham. People in the sports industry know it's a sham."

Not so fast, said George Atallah, the union's external affairs director. Decertification is a non-story now, he said, but come March it might be important. Two years after a busted strike, the union decertified in 1989 but reorganized four years later after winning concessions from owners on free agency and other issues.

That 1993 CBA initiated an era of labor peace that lasted until 2008, when owners voted to scrap the agreement and force a potential March lockout.

"Decertification is just one option we have," Atallah said. "It doesn't mean it's what we'll do. It's important, however, that we do the votes now and not in March, and we're holding these annual meetings with every team anyway."

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbu ... 03020.html (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_703020.html)

10-07-2010, 07:56 AM
If there is no CBA and no union to negotiate with can't the owners just initiate whatever system they want?

10-07-2010, 12:16 PM
If there is no CBA and no union to negotiate with can't the owners just initiate whatever system they want?


If there is no union whom will owners talk to? Players representatives will have all the negotiation rights with owners???

Will there be breakaway NFL if some players don't like the new system or don't agree with the deal?

10-07-2010, 12:34 PM
If there is no CBA and no union to negotiate with can't the owners just initiate whatever system they want?


If there is no union whom will owners talk to? Players representatives will have all the negotiation rights with owners???

Will there be breakaway NFL if some players don't like the new system or don't agree with the deal?

Hopefully phillesq or someone who has a background in this can set us straight.

I think that if there is no CBA that owners can establish the structure and rules of how they will run their business and then it becomes up to the players to decide if they want to join that company just like any other employee looking to get hired. I still think that they can have a salary cap, etc.

I think the threat to the owners is that they may lose their anti-trust exemption which is the threat the players want to have on their side.

10-07-2010, 01:08 PM
I think the threat to the owners is that they may lose their anti-trust exemption which is the threat the players want to have on their side.

BINGO- the players wouldn't be unanimously voting to decertify if it hurt their cause.

10-07-2010, 01:22 PM
Just heard Wolfley and Ilkin talking about this on the radio. Apparently there was a court ruling back in 1987 that when the CBA expired the conditions of thelast one continued in perpetuity as long as there was a bargaining agent for the players. That's why the players decertified in 1989.

According to them, if the players decertified and the league locked them out then the players could sue the league because of being locked out because there is no longer a bargaining agent.

10-07-2010, 01:44 PM
Hopefully if the owners won't do the right thing for it's own sake, they'll do it for fear of getting sued. I really hate 'ends justifies the means' in most cases, but this time at least the end would be a (mostly) good thing.

10-08-2010, 12:35 AM
NFL says players guilty of distortion
By Carl Prine and Scott Brown, TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Friday, October 8, 2010
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbu ... 03310.html (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_703310.html)

The NFL has hit back at several Steelers players, accusing them of distorting what happened during a mandatory Tuesday meeting on the eve of a unanimous vote to decertify the union.

The pros and the National Football League Players Association are smacking back, saying the league tried to manipulate players before they took the vote to scrap their union a potential labor strategy that ultimately could lead to owners losing anti-trust exemptions provided by Congress unless a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is inked between players and management.

NFL owners have threatened to lock out the players if a deal isn't reached by March. Quarterback Charlie Batch, safety Ryan Clark and other players complained to the union and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that a delegation led by embattled former union president Troy Vincent and former NFL Alumni director George Martin sought to mix mandatory "life skills" teaching with lobbying for the owners.

"Doesn't matter what the meeting was for, players around the league know what this is about," Clark said.

NFL officials, however, say Clark and his union made inaccurate conclusions about the session.

They say that months before the union threatened to decertify, Steelers player development director Ray Jackson set up the Tuesday panel. It was composed of former NFL players Wil Wolford, Emanuel Martin and George Martin to answer financial, off-field conduct and other questions by today's younger pros.

With the Steelers currently in their bye week, coach Mike Tomlin introduced the session, which was monitored by the union's player development manager Leslie Satchell. Vincent, 39, a former All-Pro cornerback who has been accused of conspiring with league brass to scuttle the union while he was at the helm, attended as the NFL's vice president of player development.

That troubled several players because in July Vincent and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell were hit with subpoenas sent by the union. The players have sought information about their relationship before Vincent got hired by the NFL.

Vincent also was mentioned in a lawsuit brought by former union director of human relations Mary Moran, who claims she was fired after it was discovered she secretly gave information to U.S. Department of Labor investigators probing the matter.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said no labor issues were discussed except when standout safety Troy Polamalu asked the panel what it was like going through the two labor strikes in the 1980s.

"It is one thing to disagree about issues," Aiello said. "It's quite another to distort facts in a way that demeans former players and former NFLPA leaders. There is no place for that in these discussions."

Players and union leaders, however, said it's impossible to discuss financial planning without dealing with the obvious fact that athletes could lose paychecks if the owners opt for the lockout.

Batch, a member of the NFLPA executive committee, said the players can't sign a new CBA until the owners disclose their profits.

"They're not willing to do that," he said of owners opening their financial books. "It's still the same thing that I've always talked about as far their position."

10-08-2010, 06:33 PM
What Does Union Decertification Mean for the NFL and NFLPA?

The players on the Pittsburgh Steelers were the latest to join nine other teams in voting to decertify the National Football Leagues' Players Association.

While the history of the NFLPA dates back into the 1950s, it was in the 1970s that the player's union had the resources to engage the NFL in meaningful court actions to represent its constituents interests when necessary.

In 1987, the NFL and NFLPA reached an impasse while negotiating a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, resulting in the player's union voting in the early spring to authorize a strike.

The response of the NFL's owners was to move forward with the season by replenishing their rosters with players from the defunct United States Football League, college players who hadn't made NFL teams, etc.

Additionally, about 15 percent of the union's membership crossed the picket lines and returned to their teams. This is commonly referred to as the "scab" season in reference to those players who decided to participate in the season.

By the third week of the 1987 season, the player's union realized that ownership was committed to it strategy of using replacement players, and voted to end the strike and return to their teams. That same day, the NFLPA filed an antitrust lawsuit (Powell v. NFL) which it won, but was ultimately overturned in 1989 on appeal by the NFL.

The appeals court judgment basically said that players had to pick between being a union and represented under labor laws, or to not unionize and pursue its antitrust rights as individuals.

That decision sets the stage for where we are today in the negations between the NFL and NFLPA.

The major issues in current CBA negotiations from the NFL's perspective are free agency, a rookie pay scale, and player compensation. The NFLPA is looking for transparency into each team's financial position to address these issues, and to gain a greater share of the NFL's total revenues (particularly television).

Up until this past May, the NFL had little incentive to reach an agreement with the players, as it was awaiting what it believed to be a favorable legal decision from the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of American Needle v. NFL.

Had the NFL received a positive verdict in that case it would have a legal precedent that as a business it was a single entity and not a collection of 32 separate entities.

This precedent would give the NFL a much stronger position against any claims brought against it under the antitrust laws.

The bad news for the NFL was that it lost its case 9-0.

Therefore, with the NFL having a significantly weaker position to defend itself against antitrust claims, the union is in the process of decertifying itself to move its potential legal battles from the jurisdiction of labor laws to those covering antitrust.

This move will transition the players from a union to a "trade organization" designed to prevent the NFL from locking the players out as it did back in 1987.

Should the NFL attempt a lockout, the NFLPA could sue the league under antitrust laws that it was being subjected to a group boycott, which is illegal.

All of this is shaping up to be bad news for fans of professional football. Recently NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in responding to a question stated that, "If there is no union who you negotiate with, that is an issue." Goodell went on to say, "They have to determine whether they are a union or not a union."

If the the players decertify the NFLPA, or if some type of deal is not reached by the end of the current CBA in March 2011, look for this one to be fought in the courts and not on the football field.