CHICAGO — The U.S. Soccer Federation sued the union of its world championship women’s soccer team on Wednesday, saying it fears players may attempt to strike ahead of this year’s Olympics.
In a complaint filed in federal court in Chicago, the USSF said Richard Nichols, who became executive director of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team Players Association in late 2014, has refused to acknowledge a Dec. 31 expiration date contained in a memorandum of understanding agreed to by the governing body and the union in March 2013. The memorandum listed changes agreed to from the previous collective bargaining agreement.
The USSF claimed Nichols informed it on Dec. 23 that the deal will end on Feb. 24 and at a meeting Wednesday refused to agree that the union would not strike before Dec. 31. The USSF asked the court to determine the CBA exists and has an expiration of Dec. 31.
“While unfortunate, we believe taking this action provides the parties with the most efficient path to a resolution, in an effort to not jeopardize the team’s participation in any competitions this year,” the USSF said in a statement.
In a Jan. 6 email attached to the lawsuit, Nichols told the USSF the union’s position was that the collective bargaining agreement no longer exists and the 2013 memorandum of understanding could be terminated at any time.
“The world champion women of the National Soccer team are negotiating in good faith to reach agreement on a new CBA that will bring fairness and equity to the sport,” Jeffrey Kessler, a labor lawyer representing the players union, said Wednesday night in a statement. “The unfortunate lawsuit by the USSF is a regrettable distraction that will not weaken the resolve of the players or deter them from the bargaining table, where this dispute belongs.”
Goalkeeper Hope Solo tweeted: “We players stand together, united in our fight for what is right and fair. (Hash) Equality.”
The USSF also fears the union may attempt to start a labor action before the National Women’s Soccer League season is scheduled to start this spring.
As part of the March 2013 memorandum of understanding, the USSF guaranteed to keep 24 women’s national team players under contract, including 18 with tier one salaries of $72,000. Tier two players are paid $51,000 and tier three players $36,000. The 24 spots include players who are hurt or on maternity leave.
Players received $15,000 for qualifying for last year’s World Cup, another $15,000 for making the World Cup roster and $75,000 for winning the tournament. The player pool received $1.8 million for the victory tour that followed the team’s World Cup title last year, its third overall and first since 2009.
Identical bonuses are available for the 2016 Olympics, according to the memorandum, which was attached as an exhibit.
The player pool gets $1.20 per ticket sold for USSF promoted home exhibitions, which the federation said is the same as the men’s team. The union also received a $425,000 signing bonus as part of the 2013 memorandum.