USL Takes Big Step In Officially Recognizing First Players Union
The USL over the weekend took a "historic step by recognizing the union formed by its players," according to sources cited by Jeff Rueter of THE ATHLETIC. The league "acknowledged that a majority of its players authorized the union, via signed cards, to be their exclusive bargaining representative." These first days of the USL Players Association are a "victory for the players that turns around years of fruitless efforts to unionize lower-division soccer players." Now that the league has "become the sole second-division league" in the U.S., its players have "succeeded in gaining representation." It is expected that the league's first CBA "won't be ready" until the '20 season (THEATHLETIC.com, 11/27). SOCCER AMERICA's Paul Kennedy noted the Voluntary Recognition Agreement "covers only teams in the USL Championship -- not the new USL League One -- and not players on MLS contracts on loan from MLS clubs." Given the "hurdles -- and costs -- involved in gaining union recognition, what the USLPA has accomplished in achieving its organizing goal and being recognized as a union -- and an independent union at that -- is significant." The USLPA's efforts were "all the more difficult because of the transient nature of the league." Players "come and go each season, creating tremendous instability in a locker room, where trusted and established leadership is necessary to guide a union movement forward" (SOCCERAMERICA.com, 11/27).
FOLLOW THE LEADERS: In DC, Steven Goff noted North Carolina FC D Connor Tobin joined Penn FC F Tom Heinemann and former USLer Trey Mitchell in leading the players' council -- an 11-man "executive committee that led the effort to unionize." Tobin said that the movement was a "player-driven" initiative, and that the exec committee was in "regular communication with team representatives." He said, "This is something that a substantial group of players has worked on through the entire year." Tobin added that plans for USL players to unionize "began three years ago and took flight again" before the '18 season. He said that the catalyst was last year's "demise of the lower-tier" NASL, which left many players out of work (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 11/27).