The Major League Soccer Players Association won’t be rushed into a decision on proposed changes to the collective bargaining agreement with the league amid uncertainties about the 2021 season, the union's executive director said.
MLSPA executive director Bob Foose on Wednesday decried the league's decision to invoke the agreement's “force majeure” clause to reopen negotiations on the CBA after the sides had two difficult negotiations a year ago — one in February that seemed to indicate labor peace, and a second in June when players took a pay cut in order to resume the 2020 season.
“They’re very frustrated, they’re certainly angry,” Foose said about the players. “I think it would be impossible to overstate the damage to the relationship that the league did with the way they conducted things last summer. It was substantial and will be very long lasting. Because of that, it’s unfortunate, but I don’t think players were surprised that there was yet another attempt to renege and renegotiate from the league.”
When the league invoked the clause, it opened a 30-day window during which the sides must negotiate in good faith. Foose said that doesn’t mean an agreement must be reached within the 30 days, only that the league must wait that long before it can move to terminate the current deal.
To that end, Foose said the players will not rush the process, especially with uncertainty about when the 2021 season will even start.
“We’re not rushing just because somehow suddenly the league has decided that there’s this magical deadline that no one’s ever mentioned before,” Foose said. “So this is a big deal, and these are big decisions and important.”
MLS Commissioner Don Garber said Tuesday that the league hoped to start the season in mid-March, but Foose said the union has been provided no firm dates on a potential start to the year.
MLS Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott said the league is concerned about an apparent lack of urgency by the union based on Foose’s comments.
“The timing of the negotiating period was specifically agreed to by the league and the players, and we have made a good faith, thoughtful and simple proposal to facilitate reaching agreement promptly and before the end of the 30-day negotiating period,” Abbott said.
The league has said it lost nearly $1 billion last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic as it played in mostly empty stadiums and with increased costs for testing and charter flights.
The league valued a proposed two-year extension through 2027 as worth between $100 million and $115 million. But while players may receive full salaries in the short-term, the long-term potential of salary growth may be handcuffed by extending the CBA.
Players agreed to a 5% pay reduction as part of the renegotiated CBA last June, but Foose said extending the CBA means delays in increases to salaries and expenditures.
He said concessions made by the union took into account the league’s expected losses in 2020 and reopening the CBA for negotiation is the league's way of trying to soften expected losses in 2021.
“The fact is right now that neither we nor the league have any idea what impact that pandemic is going to have on finances in the 2021 season,” Foose said.
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