Judge’s Ruling Bars Strike by U.S. Women’s Soccer Team Before Rio Olympics

A federal judge ruled on Friday that the U.S. national women’s soccer team possesses no right to strike under the collective-bargaining agreement its players affirmed.

The players argued that the validity of an agreement requires their signed consent according to their by-laws. The court sided with the United States Soccer Federation’s argument that the unanimous backing of a continuation of a past collective-bargaining agreement, with minor modifications, made the previous no strike/no lockout provision binding.

The team, which won the Women’s World Cup last year, wants better compensation from the United States Soccer Federation (USSF). In the ultimate game of that tournament, the women’s team set ratings records and essentially filled a 54,000-seat stadium in Vancouver.

“On March 17, 2013, the players voted on the proposed [Memorandum of Understanding] via conference call and unanimously accepted it pending the resolution of one outstanding issue—the players’ ability to play in Europe instead of playing in the NWSL,” Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman wrote in a 13-page decision. “The resolution of that issue was subsequently approved by a majority of Players Association members in an e-mail vote on March 18, 2013.”

The ruling in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division prevents any strike before the Rio Olympic Games this summer. The judge sided with the players on an anticipatory breach of contract claim made by the USSF. The ruling does not directly impact the equal-pay complaint made by several of the team’s members to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regarding the U.S. men’s team members earning more money despite enjoying far less success than their female counterparts.

“Today, Judge Coleman ruled in favor of U.S. Soccer and affirmed that the existing CBA with the U.S. Women’s National Team Players Association is valid through the end of 2016, including the no-strike, no lockout provision,” reacted the USSF to the decison. “We are pleased with the Court’s decision and remain committed to negotiating a new CBA to take effect at the beginning of next year.”


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