The NFL Players Association Executive Committee negotiated over the course of the past 10 months a labor deal with the NFL. Both the Executive Committee and the league deemed the tentative deal acceptable to be considered by their respective membership. And now, with the NFLPA commencing its formal approval process, the same body that negotiated the deal has voted against recommending it, 6-5.
Meanwhile, the union reportedly intends to push the proposal to a full, simple-majority vote of the entire union, even if the board of player representatives fails to approve the measure by a two-thirds (22 of 32) supermajority.
And so it’s possible that at least 50 percent plus one of the roughly 1,900 dues-paying members of the union will vote for the new CBA, even if the Executive Committee and board of player representatives have failed to recommend it. Which would create potential chaos for a union whose rank-and-file will have disregarded the opinions of its elected leadership.
The language of the NFLPA Constitution seems to support the process that the union will be implementing. Article VI of the Constitution sets forth the rules applicable to the adoption of a new labor deal. The three key sections of Article VI appear below.
6.01 In advance of collective bargaining negotiations, each Player Representative shall meet with the members from his club to ascertain the provisions that such members wish to be incorporated in the NFLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement. After review of the suggestions from the members of the NFLPA, the Board of Representatives shall finalize the proposals to be presented to owner representatives in connection with any proposed Collective Bargaining Agreement or modification thereof.
6.02 The Negotiating Committee shall consist of the Executive Committee, including the Executive Director serving ex officio.
6.03 Any Collective Bargaining Agreement tentatively agreed to by the Board of Representatives with the owner representatives shall not be binding on the NFLPA until it has been ratified by a majority of the members of the NFLPA voting for ratification or rejection. A recommendation from the Board of Representatives may accompany any collective bargaining agreement so proposed to the members for ratification, but a recommendation shall be adopted by the Board of Representatives only upon a two-thirds (2/3) vote.
So here’s what that means, in English (or at least something close to it).
Before CBA negotiations begin, the various player representatives must meet with their teammates to determine the terms they’d like to see in an agreement. The board of player representatives then finalizes the proposals to be represented to the league. Then, the Executive Committee and executive director DeMaurice Smith negotiate a deal with the league.
Next (which is where the process currently is), the deal is ratified by a majority of the members of the union — with or without a two-thirds recommendation from the board of players representatives. The key word in Section 6.03 is “may”; if the provision used “shall” instead, the recommendation of the board of player representatives would have been a mandatory prerequisite to a full vote of union membership.
Section 6.03 is a bit confusing on the front end, since it contemplates that the board of player representatives and the league’s representatives have reached an agreement when, in reality, the board of player representatives never actually negotiates with the owners. But the broader point, as articulated by Section 6.03, is that the agreement becomes ratified if/when a simple majority of the full membership vote for it, regardless of whether the board of player representatives recommends the proposal.
The provisions quoted above say nothing about the impact of a vote of the Executive Committee on the approval process. It could be argued, in theory, that the 6-5 Executive Committee vote against the proposal means that the Executive Committee no longer has an agreement with the league — and that technically the process should stop while the Executive Committee returns to the bargaining table.
Of course, that will require someone on the Executive Committee to take a stand against momentum that squarely is pointing toward the full membership voting on the current proposal. Maybe that will happen, maybe it won’t. Regardless, the process seems to be destined to move toward a full vote of all players, regardless of what the board of player representatives decides. And it likely will take a lot at this point to push back against it.