Today saw a new, if not unexpected, development in the unfolding drama between the league owners and the players' union, the NFLPA. This morning, the owners filed an unfair labor practice claim against the NFLPA. Essentially, this is a move by the owners to try and preempt what they expect to be coming soon from the union--de-certification. We'll look more at why these things were done and what they mean after the jump.
The union, of course, recognizes that this is the owners' strategy. Their plan to beat the owners is to de-certify. What's that mean? Let's back up a second. In order for a trade union to legally claim to represent all workers in a given industry, there have to be secret ballot elections where the workers can decide whether they want to organize or not. If enough workers vote in favor of unionization, the union gets formed. Then, they apply to the National Labor Relations Board, a federal agency which regulates labor disputes, for certification. Once the NLRB certifies them, they are an official union, and can legally bargain collectively on behalf of all the workers in that industry.
So, the NFLPA's plan is to de-certify, which would dissolve the union. Once the union is dissolved, collective bargaining would cease, and owner-player interaction would no longer be covered by the federal labor law anti-trust exemption. Thereafter, any unilateral changes made by the owners would be illegal, and the players could challenge them in court, as well as file anti-trust lawsuits against the owners for any action they take.
The owners expect the players to attempt the de-certification gambit, because they've done it before. Their claim to the NLRB, therefore, is that the coming de-certification by the union is a sham, a ploy designed to frustrate the owners. This is an unfair labor practice, they claim, because it won't be done in good faith.
So, this isn't unexpected. Neither is it earth-shattering. It's just one more step towards the impasse and lockout that we all know is coming. Here's to hoping we get football back sometime soon.