One of the reasons for the lack of a new labor deal has arisen from the absence of a clear, natural deadline for getting a deal done. As we’ve been saying for two years now, neither side will begin to move toward a bottom-line negotiating position until a natural deadline emerges. And while some think that the natural deadline comes from the expiration of the current labor deal in early March, others think that there’s a loose date in July or August, which if a deal happens would allow enough time for training camp and other preparations for Week One.
In bargaining, if one side approaches its bottom line too far before the moment that the proverbial clock strikes 12, that side could end up being compelled to move below its bottom line when the bell begins to ring.
But while the two sides have been unwilling to fashion an artificial deadline in the hopes of doing a deal sooner rather than later, the NFLPA has told its players in a letter from executive director DeMaurice Smith that the union developed an “internal deadline” for getting a deal done, and that the deadline has passed.
According to the Associated Press, the union consequently has advised the players to prepare for a lockout, and to commence that process by saving their final three game checks of the 2010 season.
In our view, it’s more of the same meaningless posturing aimed either at getting the public on the players’ side, or at getting the players to take the threat of a lockout seriously, so that the NFL won’t assume that the players will cave in and take the best deal after missing a game check or two.
And the tactic once again ignores the fact that the NFLPA has lined up authority from every player on every team (indeed, we’re unaware of a single “no” vote) to decertify the union and essentially block a lockout. Eight days ago, NFLPA spokesman George Atallah said in an appearance on The Dan Patrick Show that the union prefers to negotiate a deal over a strategy that the NFL dismissively calls “going out of business.” (The fact that the NFL has come up with a derisive name for the move confirms its potential effectiveness.)
So whether it’s the union telling players to save their money in the event of a lockout or the league telling fans they’ll get their money back if a lockout happens, these exchanges won’t get a deal done. Only bargaining will make it happen, and while the union has committed on multiple occasions to participating in intensive, “lock-in” negotiations in December, the NFL continues to dance around accepting that offer unequivocally.
While we’ve been pushing both sides to do it, the fact remains that it will be difficult to forge a consensus without a natural deadline, especially in light of the acrimony that currently exists between the two parties.