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NFL Lockout 2011: NFL Files Unfair Labor Practice Charge Against NFLPA

Fooch's Note: Don't forget to check out Drew K's latest NFL Combine post about tight ends.

Some of you may have come across the news that the NFL has filed an unfair labor practice charge against the NFLPA. As we continue towards a potential 2011 NFL Lockout, the owners are claiming the NFLPA is engaging in surface bargaining, which is basically sham bargaining. The two sides to a collective bargaining agreement agree to negotiate in good faith, and surface bargaining is a lack of good faith on the part of one of the two parties. The NFL filed this charged based on the decertification strategy as proof that the NFLPA is not bargaining in good faith.

If a lockout were to begin, the idea is that the NFLPA would decertify in order to prevent the lockout. If the NFL imposed their rules the players could then file an antitrust lawsuit. Earlier during the season there were reports of the NFLPA going from team to team getting permission on the decertification issue.

Normally any sort of litigation is a bad thing since that can mean less time being spent around the bargaining table. In this case, this would appear to be an example of the owners simply getting their ducks in a row for a lockout. If the decertification strategy is taken off the table, the owners can lock out the players without worrying about the decertification legal issues.

The union of course claims there is no merit to these charges:

"The players didn't walk out and the players can't lockout," NFLPA spokesman George Atallah told PFT via e-mail. "Players want a fair, new and long-term deal. We have offered proposals and solutions on every issue the owners have raised.  This claim has absolutely no merit."

While this would be a sign the league is looking at a lockout, a loss in this case might push the owners away from a lockout. When charges are filed with the NLRB, there is an investigation to determine whether there is merit. If there is then the charges go to a hearing before an administrative law judge. Throughout the process, the ALJ and the Board officers involved push for some kind of settlement between the parties. A settlement can be reached even as a trial is underway. Additionally, the two sides can continue negotiations on a collective bargaining agreement even as this litigation process develops.

This is not a good sign of the relationship between the two sides, but this doesn't guarantee a lockout. Cases can be slow to develop in front of the labor board, so it will be interesting to see if this is expedited over the coming weeks to get a resolution before March 3.

On a related note, smileyman will be breaking down a lot of the CBA issues starting later today. The post was originally scheduled for 2pm but I'm moving it back to 2:30pm