Players’ union questions MLS’ motives for wanting a new CBA

October 24, 2020 Atlanta - Atlanta United fans cheer for the team during the second half in a MLS soccer match at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Saturday, October 24, 2020. D.C. United won 2-1 over the Atlanta United. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
October 24, 2020 Atlanta - Atlanta United fans cheer for the team during the second half in a MLS soccer match at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Saturday, October 24, 2020. D.C. United won 2-1 over the Atlanta United. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

MLS players have no intention to go on strike if a new collective bargaining agreement between its union and the league isn’t reached, union executive director Bob Foose said Wednesday.

But Foose and the players have many questions and expressed skepticism about the reasons that the league’s owners invoked the force majeure clause in December to start negotiations on a new CBA after they twice negotiated new deals only last year.

“One of the fundamental questions is what is this negotiation really about: financial necessity or financial opportunism?” Foose asked Tuesday.

Foose said the players believe the league’s desire to negotiate a new CBA isn’t about the estimated $1 billion in losses that league commissioner Don Garber said MLS sustained in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, nor is it about what could happen this year.

The implication is that negotiating a new CBA is about opportunism.

“Evidence I’ve seen as it relates to economic impact of COVID, people at top of economic ladder (which includes owners of MLS clubs) have seen their wealth remain relatively unaffected or seen that wealth increase,” Foose said. “It’s those not at the top that will absorb most of the economic impact of the pandemic.

“While we can’t address all those financial inequalities in our society, we can raise the issue of fairness. The brunt of the league’s proposal would be borne by the bottom half of the player pool in terms of overall pay. That certainly isn’t fair.”

The league proposed extending the CBA negotiated in June, which was a COVID-forced edit of the deal that was negotiated in February, by two years through the 2027 season in exchange for no player salary cuts this season.

Foose said that proposal is disingenuous because the players’ salaries already are one year behind the deal that was agreed to in February because that was changed in the deal that was agreed to in June. And next year’s terms will put the players two years behind.

Foose also questioned the 30-day window to negotiate a new deal that Garber said is required. Garber said that was a result of enacting the force majeure clause. Foose said the deadline is made up, not legal and he believes is a product of the owners wanting to hurry through a negotiation now before there is a clearer understanding of how COVID will affect the coming season.

Foose said the players don’t want to drag out negotiations with the owners. But they do want to take their time to make sure a satisfactory agreement is reached.

Garber said Tuesday that the league’s owners haven’t discussed locking out the players. Foose was a bit skeptical of that Wednesday, noting that a lockout was threatened by Garber last summer during the second set of negotiations. Foose said a work stoppage would be incredibly damaging to the league’s present and future and that he is confident the players could withstand a lockout.

“If there’s a work stoppage, it would be decided by league and owners,” Foose said.

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