Apr 27, 2011

[format] With all of the excitement of the NBA and NHL Playoffs, the MLB season, and the NFL labor dispute, its easy to forget that the NBA will more than likely be in the middle of their own labor dispute after their current CBA expires on July 1st. [/format]

The NBPA, on the other hand, is not the average sports fan.  Not only have they been focused on their own labor situation, but of the situation with the NFL.  So much so, in fact, that in lieu of Judge Susan Nelson’s ruling for the NFLPA (temporarily lifting the NFL’s lockout), the NBPA is already beginning to mirror the NFLPA’s labor strategy in preparation for what may become a protracted work stoppage.

[quotes][format] Top officials with the NBA and NBPA were reading every word of Nelson’s opinion Monday, but the upshot for the NBA’s labor negotiation was clear and resounding: If the NBPA elects to decertify — in effect, dissolving the union and forfeiting the ability to collectively bargain contracts and work rules — then Nelson’s ruling will stand as federal precedent rendering moot the NBA’s presumed tactic of imposing a lockout. The NBA’s collective bargaining agreement expires at 12:01 a.m. on July 1. [/format]

Anticipating a lockout, the NBPA already has collected enough signatures to approve a vote for decertification (-emphasis mine), sources told CBSSports.com. Both sides in the NBA labor negotiation have been closely monitoring the NFL labor case, and top NBA negotiators for more than a year have been holding out hope that a decertification by the players would be ruled a “sham” by federal courts. (via CBS Sports)[/quotes]

Nelson’s ruling strikes at least a momentary victory for players not just the NFL, but other American sports which operate under collective bargaining agreements, due to the precedent set by Nelson’s ruling.  Of course, if the NFL wins on appeal, the various leagues would have precedent on their side, putting players associations at a distinct disadvantage.

[format] But, what of decertification and the NBA?  Sure, as reported, the NBPA has collected enough signatures to decertify the union, which is great, assuming the Nelson’s ruling holds on appeal. But is the NBPA guaranteed to decertify? Or, more importantly, is it the right strategy? [/format]

One of the significant differences between NBA and NFL contracts is the fact that many NBA contracts are guaranteed…and therein lies the problem.  Decertification by the union would automatically void any guaranteed contracts and monies due to the players.  The decertification of the NFLPA was so successful because there are no guaranteed contracts in football –the players essentially had nothing to lose with decertification; it was their last bargaining chip.  And because it was their last bargaining chip, it was easy to present a unified front against the NFL.  That idea of a unified front is essential in labor negotiations…especially when you’re fighting with people who have deeper pockets.  Chinks in the armor will not only be exposed, they may very well lead to an unfair deal.

[format] With the NBPA, decertification would require players to give up millions and in some cases, hundreds of millions of dollars.  Take Hawks Guard/Forward Joe Johnson for example.  Johnson signed a six-year $123M contract last July — all guaranteed money.  This season, Johnson made roughly $16M.  If the NBPA goes through the decertification process, Johnson would lose out on the last 5 years of his contract;  approximately $107M in guaranteed money. [/format]

Ouch.

[format] Granted, Johnson would recoup some portion of that money when he signed a new contract, which would likely occur after a new CBA is in place.  Of course, that creates another problem. [/format]

The NBA is already a league in which many would argue that top level talent isn’t paid fair market value for their services (salary caps, max deals, etc.), so you already have the idea in place that upper echelon talent should receive larger contracts.  That problem has been exacerbated by the NBA labor dispute as one of the primary sources of contention between the two sides is the owners’ idea of decreasing the length and value of player contracts.  Is there significant push-back from the players? Of course. Will there probably be some sort of compromise between the two sides? More than likely, yes. The problem? That compromise means that at some point, Joe Johnson, and players like him are going to lose some portion of the guaranteed money that exists under their current contracts.

[format] Now, imagine the NBPA trying to make the idea of decertification look palatable to ALL of its players.  Not quite as easy to present a unified front, is it? [/format]

Sure, maybe the NBPA is full of good Samaritans, willing to throw away money for the good of the union.  And maybe they aren’t.  Lets not forget, two different groups have already attempted to break off from the NFLPA lawsuit, looking for their own voice at the table.  There is no guaranteed money involved there.

[format] How is this all going to play out when millions of dollars are being thrown away? [/format]

I’m not sure if there is any precedent in place for a situation like that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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