NFL vs. NFLPA Labor Issues: Lockout vs. Strike

Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk recently published a post at PFT titled "Ten things to know right now about the labor situation." It includes some stuff most people at Niners Nation know, but also some interesting little tidbits that might have under the radar. User nocal81 already did a review of number four on Florio's list so we'll ignore that one for now. I wanted to focus in on the way the lockout could play out and the alternatives that might exist.

1. A lockout likely would begin long before September.
2. The union has the ability to try to block a lockout.
3. The owners have an alternative to a lockout.

Most folks know that a lockout could begin as soon as the beginning of March, and the NFLPA has pushed the notion that there are only 50 (now less) days until a lockout begins. When I listened to that conference call, a lockout came across as pretty much inevitable.

The most interesting aspect of all this is the option the two sides have that really isn't discussed enough. As Florio discusses in #3, the league could choose NOT to lock out its players and instead continue negotiations. For those that don't know, hotel workers at numerous San Francisco hotels have actually been working without a new contract since August of 2009. There are negotiations and various economic actions between the two sides to try and get a deal done, but nothing has been done. In the meantime, the two sides continue operating under the previous rules.

At some point if negotiations are not going anywhere the league can declare an impasse and institute their last best offer as the new rules. At that point, the NFLPA could either agree to those new rules or elect to go out on strike. As Florio explains, that could potentially give the league the high ground in the PR battle by claiming they provided an opportunity for the players to play.

This would be particularly interesting given the union's latest move to garner more public support. There has been a lot of discussion about how the players just want to play football and nothing more. The NFLPA is organizing an event on Tuesday January 18 called #LETUSPLAY Day. The players are asking fans to do the following:

  • Tell EVERYONE you can about and how they can sign the Petition to Block the Lockout.
  • Donate your Facebook status by posting: "Today is LET US PLAY Day. Help NFL Players and Fans Block the Lockout. Visit and sign the Petition."
  • Tweet the following: "Today is #LETUSPLAY Day. Help #NFL Players & Fans #BlocktheLockout. Visit and sign the Petition."
  • You can participate in a #LETUSPLAY Chat with me and other players on Facebook and Twitter that day. We will also be taking fan questions from Twitter and Facebook and responding to them on Ustream and our YouTube page.

This gets interesting if a last, best offer is implemented by the league. In that instance, even if it's a poor offer from the union's standpoint, they would find themselves in a tricky position given their stance on just wanting to play. They can't just accept any deal because the "last, best offer" is not necessarily going to be a great, or really even good offer. However, if the onus was on them to go out on strike they could take a sizable PR hit. It's possible the public would understand, but I have to think the owners would be able to spin the heck out of something like this.

Of course, this is all based on the lockout not beginning at the start of the league year in March. The Florio post goes into details about some of the possible results of a lockout, including potential decertification. There's a lot of legal issues related to anti-trust lawsuits in that instance, including the impact of American Needle. #2 in Florio's article goes over some of these details. While it shouldn't be taken as the complete gospel, it mentions some pertinent information. Everybody generally has an angle in all this so make sure you consider Florio's own background (both as a lawyer and as a guy who NBC has invested heavily in) as you read over his comments.

We'll have plenty of coverage of this developing situation over the next few months. Let's just hope for a resolution sooner rather than later.

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