Labor Talks Hotter Than Ever

Labor Talks Hotter Than Ever

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On February 21, 2010
  • CBA Discussions, Mark Abbott, Players Union

It seems as though the talks between the league and it’s players have gone from bad to not good to decent to positive and now to terrible. What seemed like a bright thing a couple weeks ago now appears pretty dark.

On Friday the players spoke out saying there no way a deal was even close at this point. With several going out of their way on Twitter and in some reports to make their thoughts clear (part of a bad player PR ploy, according to Match Fit USA’s Jason Davis). I won’t even bring up the Soccer365 piece that sounded more like propagada than anything else.

“We feel the league’s not taking us very seriously at all,” said Houston goalkeeper Pat Onstad, a member of the player’s union executive committee. “We’re pretty far apart at this stage.

But yesterday MLS president Mark Abbott went public for the first time in a while, explaining the league’s position on various labor issues. Now the ball is pretty much in the union’s court. From the sound of things the league isn’t ready for a lockout here and according to Abbott if the players aren’t wanting to play this spring it will be their call.

“We’ve communicated that the league doesn’t have an intention of commencing a lockout,” Abbott told the Associated Press.

Its coming down to one or maybe two big issues for the players here. Players want guaranteed contracts, option clauses and most importantly free agency.

At the moment not all contracts are guaranteed. Then again who’s contracts in any industry are guaranteed. Basically the players want a little breathing room in the summer when the secondary transfer window opens up. RIght now when that window opens up some players a rough time staying in a team’s plan when a foreign player becomes available.

Basically the league doesn’t want to be able to promise a player a full year’s worth of a contract while the players want to make sure their butts are safe for an entire season.

On guarantees and options Abbott said that MLS “would guarantee a significant number of contracts, not all contracts” and “would limit the number of team-allowable options that we have in player contracts.”

Now the biggie as we all know is free agency. Currently there are a couple big names like Kevin Hartman, Dave van den Burgh and Adrian Serioux who’s respective clubs are currently able to hold their player right’s within the league, basically not allowing them to move freely to another team. Any other team within MLS must negotiate with the player’s current team if he is to move within MLS.

The league isn’t moving on this issue and the players are taking a pretty hard stance on it as well. Right now the league doesn’t want a full fledge free agency system because of the court case they won against the players years ago regarding their single entity system.

The thing the league should realize more though is that lately it seems like they are losing more top young talent to other leagues in the world for nothing. Not every player leaving MLS to go to Europe gets a transfer fe. Half probably do but the other half doesn’t which means the league gets nothing in return.

Abbott did say that the league has proposed new guidelines to address issues involving players who are no longer wanted by a club but wish to remain in MLS.

“We have made specific proposals on how to deal with that and in ways that you do not need free agency,” he said. “We may want to bargain with those proposals, but we have made them.”

Whether or not the players are going for it remains to be seen. The sides met a few times this past week and, with a deadline looming Thursday, they plan to talk again Monday in New York.

Could another deal get pushed back again on or before Thursday? Abbott was pretty clear about where that stands.

“Clearly, no one is in favor of a work stoppage, but we spent years establishing the structure of the league to make it work and we did so against a background of repeated failures to launch professional soccer leagues in the United States,” he said. “What we would never do is compromise those things that we think are necessary for the continued growth and prosperity of the league simply to avert a work stoppage. We have to think about this in the long term and we have to make sure the right system is in place.”

Its not like the league begins play next week here but there are still four more weeks for something to get done. Both sides still now there is too much at stake here this year to not get something worked out.