Those are the things that the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) is fighting for as they seek to reach a new collective bargaining agreement with the NFL.
In the face of the recent labor battle between public sector employee unions and the Governor of Wisconsin, another labor union battle is heating up that will capture the attention of Americans yet again.
There are many differences between these two labor battles. The case in Wisconsin involves state employee unions that represent state employees that are paid by the taxpayer. The NFLPA is a private union and represents the football players in the NFL.
The NFL and NFLPA have been unable to reach a collective bargaining agreement, which expired earlier this month but was extended until March 11. An agreement was not reached so the NFL union decertified to allow the players to pursue an antitrust lawsuit against the owners. NFL football may not happen until a new agreement is reached—or so we are led to believe.
First, the demands from the NFLPA for the new CBA are outrageous. Currently, the NFL has a salary floor–meaning that their is a minimum salary that players can make. The minimum salary is in the hundreds of thousands and changes annually and is determined by using a complex formula. While the average career of a football player is a little more than three seasons, the NFLPA believes that the players deserve more than they currently get.
As far as health-care benefits are concerned, the NFLPA believes that former players should receive health-care benefits long after they end their football careers. The reasoning from DeMaurice Smith, the union boss at the NFLPA, is that these players deserve better health benefits after being banged up on the field season after season.
On just the health-care benefits alone, it is hard to agree with the NFLPA. If the people they represent make a minimum salary each year that is in the hundred of thousands of dollars, it is hard to imagine these players not being able to afford health care after they exit the league. After all, these players do this work voluntarily, and should understand the risks of engaging in such activity. They are rewarded richly for doing so with large paychecks.
Further, these expanded health-care benefits do not even factor in what sort of benefits the players might get from future employment after they have moved on from their NFL careers. It’s as if the NFLPA assumes that no one has health care or the means to obtain it after their time in the NFL—a fact that is hard to believe when you consider the high pay scale these players are on. And curiously, how many Americans have jobs where they still receive benefits from previous employers?
DeMaurice Smith has worked himself into a frenzy over the current labor negotiations. The other day on the Washington, D.C.,-based morning radio sports program The Sports Junkies, Smith complained that he has not been granted access to the financial information of the NFL. While Smith believes that he should be able to take a look at their financial data to figure out how much of the NFL’s revenue the players should be able to shanghai, will he disclose why the NFLPA pension plan is currently 40 percent underfunded? On that fact alone, it discounts a lot of the ground that the NFLPA stands on when they claim to be “fighting for the players.”
Smith has been a darling of the media. It is hard to find anyone in the entire realm of the sports media that is critical of the actions being taken by the NFLPA. But one fact does remain; the NFL is a contract-based league. All of the players have to negotiate contracts with the teams that they play for. Could the players not negotiate the benefits and other items they want in the contract stage? If players are unable to get what they believe they are worth, they can try and find another team willing to give them what they feel they are worth. These players should only receive what the market will bear, not a collective bargaining agreement that is devoid of all market forces.
Labor unions, both in the private and public sector, serve little purpose for protecting the cause of the people they represent. While DeMaurice Smith believes that he is protecting the interests of the players he represents, what will the players do now that the lockout has happened? If the NFL was smart, they would allow anyone that is willing to break the picket line to cross over and hammer out their own contract and play for whichever team is willing to pay them.
The best outcome of the labor negotiations is a complete breaking of the union. While I love football and would be depressed about missing a season, I am willing to forgo the pleasure of games on Sunday if it gets the union out of the sport.