Veteran labor lawyer Bob Batterman, who is working for the NFL in connection with the current labor negotiations, appeared on today’s PFT Live and discussed various topics relating to the ongoing labor dispute.
The main question that we, and many of you, have is simple. What will happen on March 4, when the current labor agreement ends?
Though Batterman won’t tell (and we didn’t ask) the league’s strategy when the clock literally strikes 12, he laid out the league’s options.
First, the league can impose a lockout.
Second, the league can declare an impasse in the talks and impose its last offer as the new rules for 2011. (We explained last night that the league could indeed be planning to declare an impasse as of March 4.)
Third, the league can do nothing, continuing to operate under the terms of the current deal. This last option would mean that, come 12:01 a.m. ET on March 4, teams could begin to sign unrestricted free agents from other teams. If, for example, the Eagles don’t apply the franchise tag to Mike Vick, the Redskins could sign him before the imposition of a lockout.
But once that reality came into focus, Batterman made it clear that the league won’t be pursuing option three. “Why would we allow that?” Batterman said. “That’s what the union wants. Why would the league allow that?”
So the options are to impose a lockout or to declare an impasse. Which means that, absent an impasse in bargaining, there will be a lockout.
Though there’s still a chance that the league will declare that an impasse exists, there arguably hasn’t been enough bargaining to reach the point where the two sides decide that they are simply looking at each other and wasting their mutual time.
Either way, this will all come to a head sooner rather than later. At midnight on March 4, the league will either padlock the gates or the league will throw the doors open and say, “We’re getting nowhere in these talks. So we’ll let you work under the terms of the last offer that you just rejected.”
Then the players will have to decide whether to strike and to continue to work. Either way, they’d surely launch a legal challenge to the question of whether an impasse truly exists.