[Editor's note: On Monday, the NFL Referees Association and the NFL exchanged statements regarding the breakdown of the negotiations and the league's effort to hire replacements. The NFLRA responded to the league's statement on Tuesday. The full text appears below. The prior statements from the NFLRA and the league can be seen here and here, respectively.]
Yesterday the NFL published a statement regarding negotiations between the NFL and NFL REFEREES ASSOCIATION (NFLRA) which omitted key information and contained other patently false information.
The omission. The NFL’s statement fails to note that the first, last and only proposal from the NFL regarding the Game Officials Pension Plan was to freeze and thereafter terminate the Plan. The league’s proposal is a massive takeaway in the overall economic package at play in the negotiations. The Plan was started by the NFL in 1974 and has been governed and administered exclusively by the NFL from inception to date. Now, despite record revenues, the NFL wants to do away with the Plan. NFL Game Officials have made significant life plans in reliance upon the benefits promised by the NFL through the Plan and understandably proposed the continuation of the Plan. However, in an effort to resolve the issue and reach a middle ground the NFLRA proposed to “grandfather” or limit the continuation of the Pension Plan to current officials only.
Federal mediators advised both parties during recent negotiating sessions that the “grandfather” solution proposed by the NFLRA would normally settle the issue. However, the NFL rejected the proposal and as recently as the June 3, 2012 session reiterated it is not interested in the grandfather concept.
The falsehood. The NFL stated that it did not take action to contact replacement officials until “after the union advised us in March of its intention to take a strike vote and told us of its plan to drag out the negotiations until late summer.” This is patently false. The NFLRA has never threatened to strike. After repeated references by the NFL during negotiations regarding its plans to obtain replacement officials the NFLRA briefed its members at its Annual Meeting on April 21, 2012. No strike vote was taken at the meeting. In fact the NFLRA’s directive to its membership was to prepare for the season and to perform each and every task assigned to them both before and after CBA expiration. This continues to be the position of the NFLRA. The NFLRA negotiating team expressly advised the NFL’s negotiating team of these directives at negotiating sessions held May 16, 2012 and May 21, 2012. The NFL’s claim to the contrary appears to be an attempt to divert attention from its predetermined lockout strategy.
The claim that the NFLRA advised that it intended to drag out negotiations until late summer is also false. The expired CBA contained a mandatory “opener” regarding negotiations for a successor CBA from April 1 to August 30, 2010. The NFLRA served written notice to the NFL by letter in March, 2010. The NFL never responded to the letter. The initial bargaining session finally took place on October 6, 2011. The NFLRA stated its desire to work collaboratively with the NFL to strengthen its partnership to
ensure player safety, maintain the integrity of the game and reach a fair CBA. The NFLRA specifically advised the NFL of its goal to present a CBA proposal to its membership on April 21, 2012 at its Annual Membership Meeting. The NFL stated its agreement in principle to these goals but its actions have frustrated their accomplishment.
The NFLRA requested the involvement of Federal Mediators in an effort to maintain a dialogue and reach an agreement. The first session on May 30, 2012 lasted 12.5 hours. The NFL did not modify its proposal. At the conclusion of the session the NFLRA suggested a 30- day extension of the CBA to allow for further negotiations. The NFL rejected the proposal and insisted on another session on Sunday June 3, 2012 to focus on economic issues. Despite a late Friday indication from the NFL that it may cancel the session, the NFLRA negotiating committee traveled to Newark again to meet on Sunday. The suggestion that the NFLRA negotiating committee would cancel personal plans and travel from all over the country – not just across town as the NFL’s team did – without serious intent to engage in substantial discussions is inaccurate and insulting.
At the Sunday session, the NFLRA spent substantial time and effort developing a revised economic proposal addressing total compensation and pension issues. The revised proposal was substantially less than the NFLRA’s prior proposal in an effort to reach agreement. By contrast, the NFL again made no modifications to its proposal. After a five minute caucus, the NFL dismissed the NFLRA’s revised proposal, stated it had no interest in discussing the proposal further and left.
Those are the facts. The NFLRA will continue its efforts to reach a fair agreement. The NFLRA has proposed total compensation increases less than those obtained in the 2006 CBA and the continuation of the Pension Plan for all of its existing members despite the fact that NFL revenues have increased from $6.5 billion to an estimated $9.3 billion during the last contract period. It is unfortunate that the NFL’s march to lockout will result in amateur officials on the field which will jeopardize player safety and the integrity of the game.