SBJ/July 11-17, 2011/Labor and Agents

NBPA amends unfair labor practices charge, says league canceled summer league without bargaining

Editor's note: This story is revised from the print edition.

The National Basketball Players Association has amended the unfair labor practices charge it filed against the NBA with the National Labor Relations Board to include an allegation that the league canceled the annual summer league without bargaining with the union, as it was required to do.

Additionally, the NBPA, in the amended charge filed with the board on July 1, said the NBA carried out its “threat” to lock players out despite there not being an impasse in the negotiations. “The NBA has asserted no (and has no) legally sufficient business justification and they have admitted in negotiations that the lockout will cost them approximately $1.5 billion per year,” the amended charge states.

The NBA declined comment on the amended charge.

The players union initially filed the charge on May 24, alleging that the league engaged in a number of activities that violate labor laws. The players are asking the labor board to investigate the charges and seek a federal court injunction to end the NBA lockout. The NBA has stated that the allegations in the original charge are without merit.

The NBA imposed the lockout upon expiration of the league’s collective-bargaining agreement on June 30.

Among the allegations in the original charge are that league officials dealt directly with players instead of union officials; failed to produce documents to back up the league’s justification for “harsh and regressive” demands; and engaged in “take it or leave it” bargaining.

“The NBA implemented the lockout to compel the employees’ acceptance of the NBA’s illegally tainted bargaining scheme,” the new charge states.

In addition to implementing the lockout, the new charge involves the league’s cancellation last month of the summer league, something the NBPA said was a mandatory subject of bargaining.

The summer league is an annual 10-day event held in Las Vegas in which rookies and select other players get to showcase their skills.

“The NBA failed to provide the NBPA with a reasonable opportunity to bargain over the unilateral change, which the NBA publicly announced as a fait accompli following the conclusion of the parties’ bargaining session on June 17, 2011,” the charge states.

In recent weeks, an NLRB investigator has interviewed seven to 10 people who have knowledge of the allegations the union has made against the NBA and is in the process of preparing affidavits of statements by those individuals, said Larry Katz, outside labor counsel for the NBPA in the case. Katz declined to name the people who were providing information to NLRB investigators.

The case is being investigated by the NLRB’s New York regional office, and because the labor dispute is so high profile, Katz and other attorneys expect that the NLRB’s national office in Washington, D.C., would make any ultimate decision on the disposition of the charge.
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