Blog Entry

Appeal ruling boils down to recognition of union

Posted on: May 21, 2011 1:41 pm
Edited on: May 21, 2011 3:50 pm
 
Posted by Will Brinson

The NFLPA filed their brief in the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals case just before midnight Friday, and led with a strong statement: "The NFL is a cartel."

But for as many zingers and strong language that exists in the brief, the argument that the panel of judges in St. Louis are really considering is this: "Are the players still a union?"

In their brief, the players argue that the NFL has not actually proven that the nonunionized players are arguing their case in the wrong place.

"The NFL does not cite any case that has ever held that disputes between employers and individualized nonunionized employees fall under the [Norris LaGuardia Act]," the players' attorneys wrote.

See, the Norris LaGuardia Act (NLGA) basically says that if there's a dispute between a employer and a group of employees in a union, that such a dispute needs to be resolved by the NLRB, and not by the court system.

So this -- "Are the players still a union?" -- is the dispute, legally speaking, that will decide whether or not we continue to have a lockout. If the Appeals Court believes/rules that the NFLPA truly disbanded, they'll lift the lockout. If they don't believe that, they'll leave the lockout in place, because, in their eyes, no court has jurisdiction over such a labor-related matter.

Here's the biggest problem, for those hoping the lockout will end: if the Appeals Court rules that the NFLPA broke up in good faith and is truly no longer a union (versus simply disbanding for legal leverage), they will establish a nightmarish precedent for themselves.
NFL Labor

Here's an example that may or may not simply be for the purpose of referencing The Wire, which is all the rage these days: If the Baltimore Union of the International Brotherhood of Stevedores decides it's being treated unfairly and wants to pursue litigation against its employer, Hypothetical Widget Shipping, Inc., it cannot dissolve the union, file a lawsuit and re-unionize later. At least not right now.

But it could -- potentially anyway -- do such a thing should the Appeals Court rule in favor of the players. (Edit: There is a difference between the status of sports leagues and other places of employ re: anti-trust status. But the point remains that the court would open itself up to a different interpretation of the law. Also, a better example could be: the NBA.)

This is problematic for the courts because it completely flips the jurisdiction of all labor disputes, if a union is willing to disband.

Remember, the Court of Appeals is pro-business; they're not "pro Roger Goodell." They don't care about this case in the sense of "How can we keep the players from winning?" They care about this case in the sense of "How does this effect future legal proceedings?"

Which is why it seems quite unlikely that the 8th Circuit will favor the players, regardless of how strong their arguments are.

Are there more issues? Yes. Are some of them stupidly complex? Absolutely.

But if you're going to boil the legal battle of the lockout down to one singular thing, it's whether or not a group of judges want to believe that the NFLPA has deunionized. Because of what they'd be setting themselves up for in the future, it's highly unlikely they'll rule that way.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Comments

Since: Mar 20, 2010
Posted on: May 22, 2011 1:34 pm
 

Appeal ruling boils down to recognition of union

"[H]rguy17, not that the NFL can really be compared to the majority of businesses, but labor cost for almost all businesses fall between 20-30% of their operating costs. It is extremely rare that a business operates with labor costs anywhere near 70-80%." -  (posted on: May 22, 2011 12:05)


Your assertion is complete disingenuous nonsense.

The majority of the costs of any service business - a law firm, an accounting firm, an architectural firm et al - are its staff salaries. Football teams fall right in line with that model, except that law firms et al don't provide the extraordinary additional psychological benefit that comes to the owners (if they're smart) from winning a championship (or from just getting close much of the time).



Since: Aug 30, 2006
Posted on: May 22, 2011 1:28 pm
 

Appeal ruling boils down to recognition of union

Another thing to think about, the owners are risking EVERYTHING which is part of being in business, while the players are risking NOTHING , which is part of being an employee.
You are straight up ignorant and delusional if you believe this.  The players risk their health and lively hoods every game where there is the equivalent of about a hunderd or two car wrecks involving 22 guys in light padding.  And they aren't employees dumb ass..they are contract labor and there is a huge difference between the two.



Since: Mar 20, 2010
Posted on: May 22, 2011 1:19 pm
 

Appeal ruling boils down to recognition of union

I'm squarely on the side of the players in this dispute. Ownership groups buy professional sports franchises because of the glory that comes from putting together championship teams and to have the best seats in the house while that happens. Owning a professional sports franchise is done for the same reason people play golf: for entertainment. Golf costs money, and I have no problem if owning a professional team does too. Just don't poormouth to me about it, and don't expect your caddies to foot the bill (and yet, despite such egos and drive for entertainment, many owners do make hundreds of millions when they sell their teams. And still they poormouth).

That said, I'm worried the original Circuit Court judge, Judy Nelson, in this union/not-a-union case may have fatally hamstrung it for further appeal: if the NFLPA is no longer a union, why did Judge Nelson order them back to the negotiating table to bargain on behalf of the players? If she really believed in the soundnes of her ruling it seems she should have left the now-unrepresented ("decertified") players to fend for themselves in negotiations with individual owners from there on out. But she didn't do that - in fact she ordered otherwise. Which may cause future courts of appeal to not so much rule against the players as take exception to Jude Nelson's logic and ruling. Oops.



Since: Mar 20, 2010
Posted on: May 22, 2011 1:04 pm
 

Appeal ruling boils down to recognition of union

"No jack_sprat, the master ..." -  (posted on: May 21, 2011 4:09 pm)


Shut up , dunce.



Since: Mar 20, 2010
Posted on: May 22, 2011 12:49 pm
 

Appeal ruling boils down to recognition of union

"You are not to bright if you just assume the owners are gonna keep paying all the bills and not make a decent profit when this is first and formost a business.  (Wich the players so kindly remind us every time they are a free agent and chase money to a new team.)" -  (posted on: May 21, 2011 2:39 pm)



You're not too bright,  , if you think anyone in their right mind buys an NFL team because of its profit potential.

Ownership groups buy professional sports franchises because of the glory that comes from putting together championship teams and to have the best seats in the house while that happens. Get a clue. Owning a professional sports franchise is done for the same reason people play golf: for entertainment. Golf costs money, and I have no problem if owning a professional team does too. Just don't poormouth to me about it, and don't expect your caddies to foot the bill.

And yet, despite such egos and drive for entertainment, many owners do make hundreds of millions when they sell their teams. And still they poormouth....



Since: Feb 27, 2007
Posted on: May 22, 2011 12:05 pm
 

Appeal ruling boils down to recognition of union

hrguy17, not that the NFL can really be compared to the majority of businesses, but labor cost for almost all businesses fall between 20-30% of their operating costs. It is extremely rare that a business operates with labor costs anywhere near 70-80%. For example a business that has a bunch of unique welds to produce a certain piece of material might have a labor cost of 50%+, but it would be highly unlikely that company would be satisfied with labor costs anywhere near as high as you have just stated.

However, if you want to relate those numbers to Richardson in NC, 60% labor cost is about where it should stay. It isn't about losing money, its about the owners right to make money off of their business. While 31 teams will not open their books, the Packers are publicly owned so their financial information is available for public viewing. The rate at which the players' salaries have grown versus revenue is outrageous. There are probably several players on that team that make more than the net profit of that franchise. Yes the players are the product, but they take none of the risk. If the league starts to fail they walk away without any debt to the league, however, the owners won't be so lucky. Claiming that the owners deserve less money from "THEIR" business is like claiming movie stars deserve to make more money off their movies than the movie studios that assume the risk and actually produce the product. Simply put, the actor gets paid no matter what, but if the movie bombs at the box office the studio can actually lose money. Thus, when a movie is a huge success the studio that produced it reaps most of the benefits. The NFL is no different. We watch the NFL to see the players play the same way we watch movies to see our favorite actors, but at the end of the day they are just employees for a much larger business that assumes the risk of operation for said employees.

It's the players that need to wake up and be thankful for the money that they receive for doing what they do. All the owners want to achieve is lowering the average yearly increase in the salary cap, and a rookie pay scale much like the NBA has in place. Both are very reasonable and probably good for the NFL as a whole. Rookie pay scales would all but eliminate rookie hold outs. With a rookie pay scale in place that frees up a lot more money for the owners to pay veterans with, and the owners get a more reasonable share of the revenue. Limiting the rate at which the salary cap increases doesn't cut a players salary it just guarantees that salaries will stay more similar to how they are now for longer. No rate of inflation will ever make a slower rising salary cap damaging to a players financial well being.
This EXACTLY!!! All of it!

I'm glad you brought up the Green Bay model as it reflects very accurately what is actually going on.

Another thing to think about, the owners are risking EVERYTHING which is part of being in business, while the players are risking NOTHING , which is part of being an employee.

Honestly, how many people replying to this story, can go to their boss, and DEMAND how much money they make? Its ludacris.

Another financial model to look at is Jerry Jones in Dallas. Lots of reports of how his new stadium has all but swallowed up any free-flow cash he might have. As a business owner, he has the right to pinch pennies here, to make other aspects work there.

Once again, he has put everything on the line to create a product, until the players become business partners, and are investing their own money at risk, they have zero clout as far as I am concerned. 



Since: Jan 11, 2007
Posted on: May 22, 2011 4:41 am
 

Appeal ruling boils down to recognition of union

hrguy17, not that the NFL can really be compared to the majority of businesses, but labor cost for almost all businesses fall between 20-30% of their operating costs. It is extremely rare that a business operates with labor costs anywhere near 70-80%. For example a business that has a bunch of unique welds to produce a certain piece of material might have a labor cost of 50%+, but it would be highly unlikely that company would be satisfied with labor costs anywhere near as high as you have just stated.

However, if you want to relate those numbers to Richardson in NC, 60% labor cost is about where it should stay. It isn't about losing money, its about the owners right to make money off of their business. While 31 teams will not open their books, the Packers are publicly owned so their financial information is available for public viewing. The rate at which the players' salaries have grown versus revenue is outrageous. There are probably several players on that team that make more than the net profit of that franchise. Yes the players are the product, but they take none of the risk. If the league starts to fail they walk away without any debt to the league, however, the owners won't be so lucky. Claiming that the owners deserve less money from "THEIR" business is like claiming movie stars deserve to make more money off their movies than the movie studios that assume the risk and actually produce the product. Simply put, the actor gets paid no matter what, but if the movie bombs at the box office the studio can actually lose money. Thus, when a movie is a huge success the studio that produced it reaps most of the benefits. The NFL is no different. We watch the NFL to see the players play the same way we watch movies to see our favorite actors, but at the end of the day they are just employees for a much larger business that assumes the risk of operation for said employees.

It's the players that need to wake up and be thankful for the money that they receive for doing what they do. All the owners want to achieve is lowering the average yearly increase in the salary cap, and a rookie pay scale much like the NBA has in place. Both are very reasonable and probably good for the NFL as a whole. Rookie pay scales would all but eliminate rookie hold outs. With a rookie pay scale in place that frees up a lot more money for the owners to pay veterans with, and the owners get a more reasonable share of the revenue. Limiting the rate at which the salary cap increases doesn't cut a players salary it just guarantees that salaries will stay more similar to how they are now for longer. No rate of inflation will ever make a slower rising salary cap damaging to a players financial well being.  




Since: Mar 20, 2010
Posted on: May 22, 2011 3:31 am
 

Even if the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ...

... rules that the NFLPA is no longer a genuine union, it doesn't automatically follow that they'll also rule that the NFL is thererfore automatically in violation of anti-trust laws. The Court could rule that the NFL is functioning as a mere coordinator of the things that a professional sports league legitimately needs coordinated and not as a "cartel".

I'm on the players' side in this but with the (predictable) venue they've wound up in, their strategy seems very risky to me. I don't think a subsequent appeal to the US Supreme Court will be, rightly or wrongly, any more promising.



Since: Jul 9, 2009
Posted on: May 22, 2011 3:12 am
 

Appeal ruling boils down to recognition of union

Good points, bosco (6:31 p.m.);. they make sense.  Of course, common sense doesn't always make a winning legal argument, but it just might in this instance. 
I can't say whether or not there's an antitrust violation here, but I WOULD say that if it looks like a labor dispute, sounds like a labor dispute, and behaves like a labor dispute, then it's probably a labor dispute.  And if the people running the players' side of it look like a labor union, talk like a labor union, and behave like a labor union--except for labelling themselves attorneys when they negotiate-- then they're probably a labor union.



Since: Jul 28, 2008
Posted on: May 22, 2011 1:25 am
 

Appeal ruling boils down to recognition of union

haha, wow, good refutation Irrespective.  First of all, you didn't really address any of the positions AND the ad hominem attack is always a nice touch.  The owners agree with the players they are in a partnership by virtue of two things, 1. They agreed not to use replacement players, and 2. they WANT the union to exist so they have someone to agree with that salaries will be capped at a specific number.  They simply want to tell the union how much those salaries are going to be.  Its really not that complicated and the owners position is patently transparent, they want to go back to the pre free agency era of dictating terms to the labor.  On that point, you are right.

In any situation where the talent level is not replaceable (think superstar player here, not the random special teams player), the talent has leverage.  These two parties are playing a big game of chicken (statement of the obvious but bare with me).  Guys like Manning, Brady and Brees are set for life already, which is why that group was the named party in the anti trust suit.  There are only two results possible, the lockout is lifted by legal mandate or they reach a labor agreement.  They have agreed not to use replacement players so the prospect of football without those stars is off the table.  The owners have to hope the players run out of money because the only way they win this is if the legal system says decertification is a fraud.  Otherwise, their argument that they need to make more money is rightfully viewed as a cash grab.  They could agree to negotiate for more money but guys like Richardson in NC don't want to.  They want to "take their league back".  My only assumption from that kind of a comment is "I am not making ENOUGH money" cause he ain't losing any.  The economics of the league dictate he is profitable.  Salaries only constitute about 60% of his operating costs.  If the rest of his costs exceed his income, he is just a crap business person.  Labor in most businesses runs anywhere from 70 to 80% (business finance guy here) depending on the business model (less for software companies, more for manufacturing and food industry).

Anyway, if you have a real argument, please put it forward.


The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com