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  • Writer's pictureRyan Lake

USWNT Set Sights On Fight For Equal Pay In Mediation With U.S. Soccer

Before the start of the World Cup, the WNT players sued the U.S. Soccer Federation alleging gender-based pay-discrimination. Now that the World Cup is over the team faces what might be their biggest challenge yet, as they head into mediation with U.S. Soccer.

Chants of “equal pay“ have followed the team everywhere they go since defeating the Netherlands in the World Cup final.

Fans of the team have been vocal in their support of the team’s demand for equal pay for equal work.

The players and U.S. Soccer agreed on June 21 to sit down for mediation after the World Cup. Since the historic victory in France, political leaders, athletes, and entertainers have all voiced support for equal pay for the WNT.

Sen. Joe Manchin went a step further and introduced a bill that would withhold federal funding for the 2026 men’s World Cup, which is going to be held in the United States, until the men’s and women’s national soccer teams receive equal pay.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row equal_height=”yes” content_placement=”middle”][vc_column][vc_column_text]Both sides have been sending clear messages that the negotiation in mediation will be a difficult one.

U.S. Soccer’s President Carlos Cordeiro stated that “we believe at U.S. Soccer that all female athletes deserve fair and equitable pay.”

Equitable pay is not the same as equal pay. This is showing that U.S. Soccer is sticking to its argument that the payment structure is based on differences in revenue generation between the men’s national team and the WNT. For more on the revenue numbers, check out this article.

When asked about the need to secure equal pay for female soccer players Megan Rapinoe has stated, “it’s time for action.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”6276″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_column_text]

How U.S. Soccer and WNT Got Here

The WNT has been fighting the fight for equal pay for years. In 2016 the legal battle started when Hope Solo, Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, and Becky Sauerbrunn filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaint on behalf of the WNT players.

The EEOC complaint alleged that U.S. Soccer provided better treatment and superior pay to the men’s national team, despite having the same job requirements. The EEOC investigated this matter for three years and in February 2019 issued an order allowing the players to sue.

On March 8, 28 players filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles alleging that U.S. Soccer practices gender-based pay-discrimination in their national team programs. The complaint also alleges that U.S. Soccer denies the players “equal playing, training and travel conditions and promotes [the women’s] games less compared with the men’s soccer team.” In all the players allege that U.S. Soccer has violated the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. For more on the details of the case, check out USWNT Fight For Equality In The U.S. While Taking On The World In The World Cup.

In June, the players requested mediation to find a settlement to the lawsuit. Mediation is voluntary and non-binding process which could provide both sides an opportunity to work together to maximize the revenue generating potential of the most recent World Cup Championship.

Both sides have strong incentives to resolve the lawsuit in mediation. For the players, mediation offers a viable option to achieve their goals of receiving higher pay and better treatment, without the stress, cost, and time that is required with a lawsuit.

For U.S. Soccer, mediation is appealing since the internal workings of the organization, and the final resolution will likely remain private. A successful mediation would also allow U.S. Soccer to stop the PR nightmare in which they currently find themselves.

Additionally, there is always the possibility of losing in court, which would be a significant blow to either side.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

WNT Options if Mediation Fails [/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”6277″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_column_text]If mediation fails, the legal proceedings will continue down a path to a jury trial. Court proceedings traditionally take years to play out, so it is possible to have the lawsuit ongoing when the WNT competes in the 2020 Olympic Games. Further, while the lawsuit is continuing, the players will likely not see an increase in pay or better treatment from U.S. Soccer.

The players do have other options they can pursue if mediation is not successful. The players could look to the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) to find another way to gain better pay and working conditions while the lawsuit is pending. The NFLPA has decertified their union twice, first in 1987 and most recently in 2011. Each time the NFLPA achieved major victories for their players. In 1987 the players earned free agency. In 2011, the players achieved several successes. Check out this article for more. The NFL players took this action when talks over a new CBA with the NFL owners broke down.

Under the National Labor Relations Act, a union may decertify three years after entering into a CBA. If the WNT decertifies their union, they could renegotiate the CBA. The players and U.S. Soccer entered into the CBA in 2017, and it will expire in 2021. If the players go down the decertification path, they could renegotiate the CBA 2020.

Further, the players would be empowered to strike and place more significant pressure on U.S. Soccer in the run-up to the Olympics.

The battle between players and management is not unique to the women’s game or soccer. Over the years, athletes in every major sport in North America have had to take a stand and fight for better rights, better treatment, and better pay. The WNT and female athletes in all sports have the benefit of seeing the results of the labor battles of the past and find new ways to shape the future. Ultimately, female athletes might find more leverage and strength in creating an organization of all of the female professional athletes regardless of sport to help the unions fight for rights of players and strive for equal pay and better treatment in all sports.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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