Where NFL-NFLPA labor fight stands (May 12)

While both sides wait for the Eightth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals to decide if it will give the NFL a temporary stay through the appeal process of Judge Susan Nelson’s decision to grant the players an injunction to end the lockout, there are two important items ahead for the NFL owners and players’ trade association in the next week.

First is Thursday’s hearing to decide the damages to be awarded to the players after U.S. District Court Judge David Doty ruled the owners violated the CBA in negotiating the recent television agreements with the NFL TV partners. The owners wanted to build a war chest of $4 billion by accepting less money for guaranteed payments even if the league does not play a game in 2011.

Doty ruled, in essence, that the owners left money on the table that could have benefitted the players as required in the CBA. Doty’s ruling overturned Special Master Stephen Burbank’s initial ruling that said the NFL did violate parts of the CBA. Burbank awarded the NFLPA $6.9 million. Doty ruled in March that the NFL breached the CBA by taking below-market deals.

Doty will decide if the players should receive compensatory and punitive damages and whether to issue and injuction to block the owners from collecting that $4 billion. The money in question would be placed in escrow until the lockout is resolved.

This is one of the key pressure points between owners and players. Had the Special Master’s ruling stood, the owners would have revenue even if no 2011 games were played. Depending on Doty’s ruling of damages, the players could see a significant chunk of the $4 billion which could help keep solidarity in the players’ ranks even as paychecks are missed in September.

The other major item is the resumption of the mediation talks that broke up April 20 just before Judge Nelson issued her decision. From most media accounts, both sides were waiting for Nelson to rule. The sides will meet again May 16 under the auspices of Chief Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan.

According to NFL.com’s Albert Breer (via Pro Football Weekly), four owners will attend that session: New York Giants’ John Mara, Carolina’s Jerry Richardson, Pittsburgh’s Art Rooney II and Cincinnati’s Mike Brown.

Those talks will occur prior to the June 3 appeal hearing in front of the Eighth Circuit. The Eighth Circuit, because of intense interest, made all court files in relation to the case open to the public.

The National Antitrust Hall of Fame website has a full chronology of Brady v. NFL with links to relevant court orders and filings.

Meanwhile, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell continues to reach out to NFL fans by way of “town hall”-style conference calls with season ticket holders at various clubs. the latest with fans in Cincinnati on May 11 to go with calls with Falcons fans on May 2 and Colts fans on May 4.

The sites run by the NFL (NFLLabor.com) and the NFLPA (NFLLockout.com) have continued to shoot back and forth over the issues at play.

NFLLockout.com has brought out what it calls “NFL Groundhog Day Files” showing how statements made during labor unrest in the late 1980s compares to the league’s current messaging.

For its’ part, NFLLabor.com gave a “history lesson” of its own about the NFLPA going on strike three times and comments made by the late Gene Upshaw, then the NFLPA’s Executive Director, and current NFLPA outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler in 1990 about the union’s decertification strategy in 1989.

Finally, the Miami Dolphins are cutting salaries of staffers during the lockout to up to 20%, according to a report in the Miami Herald. According to Jeff Darlington, the cuts will be in place until the lockout is over.

According to the Palm Beach Post, the Dolphins are the 12th NFL club to cut employee salaries in the wake of the lockout. Other clubs have instituted hiring freezes, and only Indianapolis, Chicago and the New York Giants have said definitely that they won’t institute pay cuts, according to the Post.

The NFL league office earlier instituted pay reductions of up to 12 percent for all employees while Goodell and chief negotiator Jeff Pash reduced their salaries to $1.

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