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Friday, March 12, 2010
Don't Panic: The Union Did NOT Vote to Strike


You may have read stories reporting the players voted 350-2 to strike.  I'll tell you why that's not really true.  Let me state right out by that I am not a labor expert nor am I 100% in the know about the current MLS labor situation.  But I can still shed some light on this vote.

Here is scary sounding quote written by Mr. Goff, "MLS players have voted overwhelmingly in favor of a strike if a collective bargaining agreement with the league is not reached in time for the season openers in two weeks"  There's only one problem with that statement.  That's not what the union voted to do.

People that know about these things tell me that any union strikes takes two steps.  First, a union has to vote to engage the ability to strike and second they then hold a vote to actually strike.  This 350-2 vote is the former one.  The MLS Player Union had a vote to allow themselves the ability to hold a strike if the members so chose.  To make an analogy, they voted to flip the cover back on the doomsday strike button.  The union gave themselves the power to hold a strike if the union membership chooses to strike.

So in order for there to be a strike, the players will have to hold another vote to actually go on a strike.  This almost unanimous vote you are reading about was simply a procedural one that gives the union a tool.  It's a bureaucratic move and this kind of vote is almost always unanimous to show solidarity.  Actual strike votes, which the MLAP has not yet held, are of much different margins.

This is a move that is used by police or teachers unions, it lets the suits know there is a threat to strike.  Technically a strike is possible.  This is just another step in the typical posturing of union collective bargaining negotiations.

To paint he picture further I can tell you that at an earlier date the MLS union had a vote to ratify the collective barging agreement proposed by the owners.  This is when the union first rejected the initial MLS proposal.  This was a proposal before there were any concessions by the owners.  FC Dallas players votes roughly 2 to 1 to reject the vote.  That still means a third of FCD's players voted to accept the collective bargaining agreement at that time.  Since then there have been some concessions by the owners, so things may go even more toward accepting the next time.  (Interestingly the FCD player vote breakdown at that time was almost exactly on American versus foreign player lines with foreign players voting to approve the initial offer.)

So while things aren't looking great at the minute.  It's not true that the union voted to strike.