A day after one of the ugliest NFL weekends concluded, the NFL didn’t call the NFL Referees Association apparently didn’t to continue negotiations. And the NFLRA didn’t call the NFL. Instead, the NFLRA called out the league.
In an open letter written by NFLRA executive director Tim Millis, the locked-out officials urge the NFL to compromise on the pension issue by continuing to provide all current officials with a defined benefit pension plan (which puts the investment risk on the employer), and converting all new officials to a defined contribution pension plan (which puts the investment risk on the employee).
It’s the referees version of the rookie wage scale. The guys who already have gone through the door are willing to slam it in the faces of those who aren’t yet in the room.
“Every current NFL official was hired by the NFL with the promise of a defined-benefit pension package,” Millis writes. “All of these officials and their families have made important life-planning decisions based on this benefit promise. The NFL now wants to break the promise by eliminating that benefit.”
It’s a fair point, but it sounds like the promise wasn’t legally enforceable — which makes the promise entirely worthless.
“Why does the League want to do this?” Millis asks. “Is the League in financial distress? Does the League see its financial future as bleak? Not hardly. The League states that it desires to eliminate the defined contribution plan because other American businesses are moving away from such plans to a defined-contribution type plan. However, 18 of the League’s member clubs continue to retain their defined-benefit plans for their employees.”
The league is taking this position because it can. With enormous bargaining power, the NFL has no qualms about using it, and they’re using it against the locked-out officials and waiting from them to cry uncle.
The fact that the NFLRA is making its case publicly indicates that the NFLRA already has tried to make its case privately, but the NFL doesn’t care. And the NFL won’t care now. And the NFL will continue to not care until the fans vote with their eyeballs or their wallets — or until Congress decides to make the issue a priority, which surely wouldn’t happen until after the upcoming elections, at the earliest.