U.S. Soccer Sues Women’s Team

     CHICAGO (CN) – Fearing a strike by the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team before the Summer Olympics, the United States Soccer Federation filed a lawsuit seeking to enforce a collective bargaining agreement.
     The Federation claims Richard Nichols, the executive director of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team Players Association, has refused to acknowledge the Dec. 31, 2016, expiration date of the current agreement.
     An email by Nichols, attached to the complaint against the Players Association filed in federal court Wednesday, states the Players Association believes the collective bargaining agreement no longer exists and that a 2013 Memorandum of Understanding is terminable at will.
     “Mr. Nichols unilaterally declared that the current collective bargaining agreement will terminate
     on February 24, 2016 (not on December 31, 2016 as agreed), and thereafter suggested that the
     Women’s National Team members will no longer be bound by the ‘no strike’ clause and,
     therefore, will be entitled to ‘engage in actions’ unless the parties agree to a new collective
     bargaining agreement,” the complaint states.
     The Federation claims that Nichols’ actions have put it in a position to either agree to a dramatically different collective bargaining agreement or face an illegal strike that could jeopardize the team’s chances of playing in the 2016 Olympics.
     The complaint states that Nichols’ position is that the Players Association is able to terminate the agreement effective Feb. 24, 2016, which would leave the organization free to “engage in actions” on or after that date.
     The team’s last collective bargaining agreement expired in 2012, but was extended to Dec. 31, 2016, by the 2013 Memorandum of Understanding, according to the complaint.
     “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 to the AP. “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.”
     The Federation is asking a federal judge to declare that the collective bargaining agreement runs through Dec. 31, 2016, and to enforce the no strike clause in the agreement.
     The U.S. Women’s National Team is the No. 1 ranked team in the world. It is the 2015 FIFA World Cup champion and the three-time defending Olympic gold medal champion.
     The Federation claims it needs a prompt determination on the matter.
     “In order to properly prepare the team for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in which they will represent the United States, US Soccer has scheduled the ‘She Believes’ tournament for early March, which will include Women’s National Team matches against the national teams of Germany, England and France, and will conduct training camps and schedule additional preparation matches in the late spring and early summer against the women’s national teams of other countries,” the complaint states. “Arranging all of these events will cost US Soccer, a non-profit corporation, a substantial sum of money.”
     The Federation is represented by Matthew W. Walch of Latham & Watkins.

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