FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

NFL Players and Owners at an Impasse

by DAVID MACARAY

Within hours of the NFL’s collective bargaining talks breaking down, the owners initiated their anticipated Plan B, locking out the players (on March 12).  And it wasn’t long after the lockout was announced that TV sports commentators began criticizing both sides for having “given up too soon.”

They chided both the team owners and the NFLPA (National Football League Players Association) for abandoning negotiations after utilizing a FMCS (Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service) mediator for “only sixteen days.”  Those sixteen days of mediation were alluded to in utter disbelief, as if common sense told us that sixteen days weren’t anywhere near long enough.

What these commentators didn’t seem to realize is that union-management disputes aren’t like diplomatic negotiations or congressional hearings.  This wasn’t a summit meeting between North and South Korea, where, after sixteen days, they’re still arguing over the seating arrangements.

Union-management negotiations are a whole other deal.  Because labor disputes are all about money (as with the NFL, where the two sides are at odds over the players’ share of total revenue), and tend to be brutally direct, there is very little foreplay—and virtually none of the pompous rhetoric and public grandstanding we’ve come to associate with politics and diplomacy.

Sixteen days with a federal mediator in the room?  That’s an eternity.  If NLFPA executive director DeMaurice Smith were candid, he’d likely tell us that fourteen of those days were a total waste of time.

During a strike I was involved in some years ago, we met with an FMCS mediator (an ex-Steelworker rep named John Courtney) a grand total of three times.  The first meeting lasted four hours and it occurred two days before we shut down the facility; the second occurred a month later, and it lasted eight hours; and the third and final meeting occurred on the 56th day of the strike.  We spent 22 consecutive hours at the table before reaching a tentative agreement.

With all due respect to Courtney and his boss, Sam Sachman (who joined us at 11:00 P.M. on the final night), mediation played a very small part in the process.  Although the mediators put their hearts into it, neither side paid much attention to them.  What ended the strike—what got the union to return to work after 57 days—was the same thing that ends most strikes:  the combination of austerity, fatigue, despair and resignation.

As for the football dispute, it will be surprising if it continues beyond the next two or three weeks.  For one thing, there’s simply too much money to be made (and lost) by both sides.  After all, this is a battle between millionaires and billionaires.  For another, April 28 is college draft day, and the closer they get to that date, the higher the sperm count will be raised.  The NFL doesn’t want to see the draft come and go without a settlement.

On March 22, the League made a slight tactical blunder when Commissioner Roger Goodell ominously suggested that the owners’ last offer “may not be on the table” the next time the parties meet.  Besides Goodell having no business posing as an objective third party (he clearly represents the owners, who hired him and can fire him), his remarks scared no one.  All he did was antagonize the Players Association.

When management puts a good faith offer on the table, they’re not only announcing to the union that it’s an agreement they can live with, they are, in effect, exposing their hand.  They’re showing the union exactly what they consider important, how much they’re willing to pay, how far they’re willing to move, and what they’re willing to give up.

And you don’t go backwards.  Management can’t suddenly withdraw that offer and pretend it never existed simply because they’ve grown impatient.  They can’t pretend that the union’s negotiating team hasn’t already etched the terms of that offer indelibly on their brains….not if they’re serious about reaching a settlement.

Roger Goodell’s pathetic threat only succeeded in further alienating the players; and given how sensitive these bargains can be, that’s the last thing he wanted to do.  Some advice for the commissioner:  Stick to your administrative tasks, and leave the negotiating to the negotiators.

DAVID MACARAY, a Los Angeles playwright, is the author of “It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor”. He served 9 terms as president of AWPPW Local 672. He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net

 

 

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
Brian Cloughley
What Money Can Buy: the Quiet British-Israeli Scandal
Mel Gurtov
Donald Trump’s Lies And Team Trump’s Headaches
Kent Paterson
Mexico’s Great Winter of Discontent
Norman Solomon
Trump, the Democrats and the Logan Act
David Macaray
Attention, Feminists
Yves Engler
Demanding More From Our Media
James A Haught
Religious Madness in Ulster
Dean Baker
The Economics of the Affordable Care Act
Patrick Bond
Tripping Up Trumpism Through Global Boycott Divestment Sanctions
Robert Fisk
How a Trump Presidency Could Have Been Avoided
Robert Fantina
Trump: What Changes and What Remains the Same
David Rosen
Globalization vs. Empire: Can Trump Contain the Growing Split?
Elliot Sperber
Dystopia
Dan Bacher
New CA Carbon Trading Legislation Answers Big Oil’s Call to Continue Business As Usual
Wayne Clark
A Reset Button for Political America
Chris Welzenbach
“The Death Ship:” An Allegory for Today’s World
Uri Avnery
Being There
Peter Lee
The Deep State and the Sex Tape: Martin Luther King, J. Edgar Hoover, and Thurgood Marshall
Patrick Hiller
Guns Against Grizzlies at Schools or Peace Education as Resistance?
Randy Shields
The Devil’s Real Estate Dictionary
Ron Jacobs
Singing the Body Electric Across Time
Ann Garrison
Fifty-five Years After Lumumba’s Assassination, Congolese See No Relief
Christopher Brauchli
Swing Low Alabama
Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones
La Realidad: the Realities of Anti-Mexicanism
Jon Hochschartner
The Five Least Animal-Friendly Senate Democrats
Pauline Murphy
Fighting Fascism: the Irish at the Battle of Cordoba
Susan Block
#GoBonobos in 2017: Happy Year of the Cock!
Louis Proyect
Is Our Future That of “Sense8” or “Mr. Robot”?
Charles R. Larson
Review: Robert Coover’s “Huck out West”
David Yearsley
Manchester-by-the-Sea and the Present Catastrophe
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail