The Arena Football League and the AFL Players Union have been locked in an ongoing labor dispute since the beginning of the season that has led to strikes, replacement players, heated negotiations and now games being shown on tape delay instead of live.
The league released an open letter on Wednesday detailing the latest efforts at negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement with the union. Union Executive Drector Ivan Soto then responded in an email to Channel 9 challenging several of the league's claims.
The following is the original letter from the league (in bold text) and the union's response (in italics):
Dear AFL Fans & Players,
The tactics of the Union in our negotiations have been unfortunate. The Union has consistently misinformed the public throughout the negotiations. The Arena Football League elected not to conduct negotiations publicly, but now it’s important to let the truth be known.
The Union has not misinformed the Public. We have provided as much information to the Public as possible. The League via Jerry Kurz has continued to withhold ALL relevant information with respect to our negotiations therefore the Union has had to obtain the information on our own and through various outlets. If the League has relevant information for us to review and use to modify our figures and information we are ready to receive it immediately. Jerry Kurz has elected to keep the negotiations a secret to provide himself the opportunity to spin the information as he desires but the Truth will be known and we are excited at the opportunity for it to be revealed.
Throughout these negotiations, the AFL has made many offers that the Union has rejected, usually the same day and in one instance in less than one hour.
Interim Agreement (not full CBA):
The League presented the AFLPU with 1 Interim Agreement whereby the Starting QB’s pay did not change for 2012 ($1675 per game) and the League offered Active Players $100 more per game but took away the “Win Bonus” of $50 per Player which equates to a $25 per Player reduction so the $100 increase was TRUTHFULLY a $75 per Game. The Interim agreement also included an increase for Taxi/Reserve Players from $200 per game to $250 per game. The Membership was required by the League to provide a No Strike / No Work Stoppage agreement for the 2012 Season and the League rejected Arbitration and Grievance, 2nd Medical, Dues Check Off and Traded Player travel compensation for this Interim Agreement. The interim Agreement has been presented on numerous occasions by the League but it has been the same offer simply provided over and over and over by the League. The Membership rejected this offer as it does not protect them in any way or provide a way for the Membership to exercise ANY leverage to get a full CBA in place. The Interim Agreement needs to be a mechanism that has some weight both financial and non financial in getting a CBA in place as we highlight and note the Leagues admission in this latest proposal, “Because of the lack of progress after almost 1 Year”, clearly indicates that we have been working on an Agreement for nearly a year without any success. In that year’s time the AFLPU has worked tirelessly to negotiate an Interim or full CBA and the Union has provided at least 6 different Interim Agreements with each one being different and a reduction in Player Compensation and providing the League with a No Strike / No Work Stoppage agreement and ALL of them were rejected completely by Jerry Kurz which preceded the current Labor unrest this Season.
Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA):
To date the League has not made a complete CBA proposal to the AFLPU with customary CBA terms and conditions. The AFLPU via Executive President James Baron provided a full complete CBA to the League on Sept 12, 2011, almost 8 MONTHS before the League provided their ONLY watered down version of a CBA on April 11, 2012 and the basis of that CBA was the Standard Player Contract (SPC) with many of the standard customary terms of a traditional CBA removed or rejected and replaced with “Governed by the Current SPC and League Rules”. The SPC is not the basis for any CBA, it may be a part of the CBA but the full CBA expresses the complete Bargaining agreement including customary terms such as Grievance and Arbitration, Medical Rights, Dues Check Off, Player Compensation, Player Trades etc..etc. A CBA is not foreign to Jerry Kurz as he was involved in the previous CBA for Arena Football and most of the Public is aware and has access to most all Professional Sports CBA’s and many of the customary terms as they are accepted by most all of the Professional Sports in the World that are covered by a CBA. To demand that the SPC be the basis or “govern” these terms and conditions is not acceptable to the Union or it’s Membership.
Financial Proposals (Not complete CBA’s):
On April 12, 2012 at 11:40 AM Eastern time the League provided us a 5 year Financial Proposal without our requested non financial terms and conditions with the following Game Salary figures:
2013-- Rookies- $450, 2nd Yr Players- $475, 3rd Yr- $500, 4th Yr- $525, Starting QB Bonus- $400, 2 “Highly Compensated” - $750, Taxi/Inactive- $250
2014-- All the same but add 5th Yr- $550, Starting QB Bonus- $400, 2 “Highly Compensated”- $800, Taxi/Inactive- $250
2015-- Rookies- $475, 2nd Yr Players- $500, 3rd Yr- $525, 4th Yr- $550, 5th Yr- $575, Starting QB Bonus- $400, 2 “Highly Compensated”- $800, Taxi/Inactive- $250
2016—All stay the same
2017—All stay the same
Our Membership rejected this offer as it was a 5 yr deal without a complete CBA and less overall compensation for the majority of Players than the $100 per player that the League had offered us already and the Union would have to relinquish our Work Stoppage Leverage without our requested non financial terms and conditions that would protect our Membership. This was a step backwards in the Bargaining process as anyone can clearly see.
With Respect to the rejected offer “in less than one hour” that Jerry Kurz is claiming here is what was presented by the League and why it was rejected in short order by the Union:
On May 25th 2012 at 5:11 PM Eastern time the League provided us a 7 year Financial Proposal without our requested non financial terms and conditions with the following Game Salary figures:
2013 – Rookies- $400, 2nd/3rd Yr- $500, 4th Yr- $550, Starting QB Bonus- $400, 2 “Highly Compensated”- $750, Taxi/Inactive- $250
2014—Rookies/2nd Yr- $425, 3rd/4th Yr- $525, 5th Yr- $575, Starting QB Bonus- $300, 2 “Highly Compensated”- $775, Taxi/Inactive- $250
2015-- Rookies/2nd Yr- $425, 3rd/4th Yr- $550, 5th Yr- $575, Starting QB Bonus- $300, 2 “Highly Compensated”- $800, Taxi/Inactive- $250
2016-- Rookies/2nd Yr- $450, 3rd/4th Yr- $550, 5th Yr- $575, Starting QB Bonus- $250, 2 “Highly Compensated”- $825, Taxi/Inactive- $250
2017-- Rookies/2nd Yr- $450, 3rd/4th Yr- $550, 5th Yr- $600, Starting QB Bonus- $250, 2 “Highly Compensated”- $850, Taxi/Inactive- $250
2018-- Rookies/2nd Yr- $450, 3rd/4th Yr- $550, 5th Yr- $600, Starting QB Bonus- $200, 2 “Highly Compensated”- $875, Taxi/Inactive- $250
The AFLPU rejected this offer in “less than an hour” because it doesn’t take a math degree to see that this offer was a regressive offer and was 2 years longer than the previous offer of 5 years. This offer did NOT include most of our non financial terms and conditions and was not presented as part of a complete CBA. The AFL is a “stepping stone” League as indicated by Jerry Kurz and we have many Rookies and 2nd Year Players so the overall offer was an even bigger step backwards that the 5 year offer that the League presented over a month earlier on April 12, 2012. We can’t accept a 7 yr agreement such as this and the Players and Fans certainly see why this offer was rejected in very short order.
The AFL has received offers from the Union on game day with the threat that rejection would lead to a work stoppage. On March 9, the Union sent a proposal at 2:13 pm and demanded a response before a press conference scheduled at 2:30 pm. These are not actions conducive to productive collective bargaining. It’s also important to note that this has led to our National Game of the Week being tape delayed by NFL Network. These broadcasts will now air on Saturdays at 3pm ET until further notice.
The AFLPU had submitted a Full CBA to the League on February 12, 2012 at 6:54 PM Eastern and 2 reduced offers to this CBA on March 3rd 2012 at 6:34 PM Eastern and March 6th, 2012 at 5:47 PM Eastern without a Full CBA Counter Proposal from the League. In an effort to resolve our issues PRIOR to the start of the 2012 Season the AFLPU presented an Interim Agreement and we did request a response by the time of our Press Conference which was held at appx 3:30 PM Eastern. We also indicated that we were in Orlando and willing to negotiate up to the last minute on this Interim Agreement which provided nearly 6 hours to consider the Interim Agreement which only consisted of a few terms and was not a Full CBA so was easily reviewable in that time. The League Counsel Tom Vogt communicated with Executive Director Soto via email at 5:06 PM Eastern that the League was renewing your $100 Game increase and the he gave the Union until 5:30 PM Eastern, a total of 24 minutes to accept the Leagues offer. Consequently and before the offer from League Counsel Vogt was sent to Executive Director Soto, both Orlando and Pittsburgh fired all of the Players at the Team dinner. Obviously the League was not in communication with its teams as League Counsel Vogt provided us an offer that was open from 5:06 PM Eastern until 5:30 PM Eastern and at approximately 5PM Eastern the Players had already been fired. The League with direction from Jerry Kurz then offered to provide travel home and permit the Players to play in the game ONLY if as a condition of their Employment they would Resign from the Union immediately a clear violation of the Players Federally protected Labor rights under the NLRA. The person most responsible for the NFL Network Tape delayed broadcasts, the current Labor Law Violations, the Labor unrest and the strife between the Fans, League and Union is Jerry Kurz. Jerry Kurz has had nearly a year to get a deal done and has instead chosen to work on sealing his own 5 Yr contract extension that was just recently provided to him rather than to honor his own contract addendum that call for an agreement FOR 2012.
The latest offer by the AFL was given to the Union today. The AFL has decided to make the particulars of this offer public. This is being done so fans can be aware of the truth and players around the League can have more of an opportunity to be better informed.
If the League wanted to be so truthful why didn’t they provide ALL of the terms of the proposal? The 7 yr proposal calls for a $25 increase per game for each Season for the next 7 seasons while also reducing the Starting QB Pay and reducing the number of Active Players from 21 to 19 while increasing the Taxi/Reserve Players to 6. This puts our Active Players at further Risk by having to carry more of the workload due to the 10% reduction in Active Game Players and also drags down overall available compensation to the Active Player pool due to the doubling or 100% increase in Taxi/Reserve Players. There most certainly will be an increase in injuries and a greater chance of a Player suffering a serious injury due to the reduction in Active Players and the increased snaps players will have to take. Why would the League or the Fans want more Taxi/Reserve Players and take away some of the Active Players that would be available for Teams on Game Day? The League also failed to address the rights to 2nd medical and our Grievance and Arbitration terms which will become even more necessary if we are going to ask for more production out of the Active Players.
Game Salary: For the remainder of this season, there would be a 25 percent increase beginning Week 16 (next week). The 2013 season would bring an increase of more than 106 percent, with further increases over the next 7 years of an agreement taking us through the 2019 season.
The League offered a $100 per game salary increase and the AFLPU is prepared to accept a smaller number than this for 2012 WITH consideration for back pay and the non financial terms we seek while allowing that we will continue to negotiate the terms of a CBA which we have not been able to do up to this point.
The Players all signed a SPC that included a Contract Addendum that is available at www.AFLPU.org under the Documents tab and then under AFL. Clearly the League committed to negotiating a CBA FOR the 2012 Season. How could the Players have a CBA for the 2012 Season when the League provided the Union with its first glimpse at a CBA on April 11, 2012? The League via Jerry Kurz has consistently stalled and delayed this negotiation with a clear intent to dissolve the Union and persuade Players to reject the AFLPU.
The increase for this season is NOT 25% as the League is taking away the $50 win bonus which equates to $25 per player. The true increase offered is $75 or 18.75% not 25% and in any case is only $75 per game. The increase for 2013 is not a 106% increase as the League would require that all players pay for their own Housing. Again, anyone with basic math aptitude can see that the increase AFTER average housing expenses of $1000 per month equates to about $2300 per month or $575 per week. If the League is paying $500 per Player in 2012 and $575 after housing in 2013 then the real increase for 2013 is $75 a game or 15%, not 106%. At best this is an oversight by the League but the Union is convinced that the League has an unusual view of what the “TRUTH” really is and most can see through the League rhetoric as it is an insult to the Players and Fans intelligence. Although the current offer is a good step in the right direction we feel that there is some work left yet to do but work we feel that can be accomplished in a very short time frame.
Housing: Players will now have the ability to choose and pay for their own housing. The option to rent housing from teams will exist, but players will be free to make their own arrangements.
The entire issue of Players being able to afford and pay for housing (and meals as requested by the AFLPU) comes from the request of the AFLPU and is something that the Union and the Players desire to prevent the constant threat of being kicked out of housing while also having the opportunity to select their own housing and possibly save additional income by this option. The AFLPU is supportive of this option and only desires to ensure that Players will receive the proper value for this expense.
Meals: Teams will continue to provide meals for all players.
The AFLPU desires that the League provide a monthly increase in pay of $300 per month to allow players to provide for their own Meals as Professional Athletes can’t excel and maintain their overall high level of fitness on Pizza and the other similar types of meals provided on a day to day basis by the League. Players should be free to select their own meal choice and have the ability to pay for them. Suffice it to say that the AFLPU will not make meals a deal breaker.
Travel: It has always been an option for teams to pay for travel when they trade for a player. Teams would now be required to pay for travel during such transactions.
Teams have historically NOT paid for Traded Player Travel and the AFLPU has insisted on Traded Player compensation. We are delighted that this will be provided but we must would require the details on the exact terms of the Travel Compensation and have our own suggestions on how to fairly provide this Travel Compensation according to the IRS Federal guidelines for Business Travel that is widely accepted by most all employers.
We certainly hope that this sheds some light on what this process has entailed. The goal of the Arena Football League continues to be that we will come to terms with the Union and that our fans will never miss another game of AFL action.
The Union requires the customary terms and conditions of a typical CBA and this includes the non financial terms such as Grievance and Arbitration, Medical, Dues Check off etc and if the League is serious about Bargaining in Good Faith these items will be included in any CBA we agree on. Our goal is not to continue to create Labor uncertainty with the Fans or Teams but the Players are at a crossroads where they just won’t be pushed back any further and will make their voices heard if we can’t come to an agreement on our outstanding Labor issues. The League has many outstanding Unfair Labor issues with the Players Union and these need to be resolved without further delay.
The AFLPU also hopes this clears up a lot of the misinformation provided by the League and certainly conveys to most open minded individuals whom is responsible for nearly all of the unrest and dissatisfaction with the AFL. The Fans, Sponsors, The current offer provides us the first real attempt for both sides to come to an agreement and the AFLPU feels that we are close to a deal and we hope that we can get over the finish line very soon and we expect to respond to the League within the next 24 hours. The AFLPU and the Coaches want the best Players on the field and the easiest way to ensure this is to take care of the Players that strap on a helmet and sacrifice physically, mentally and give so much on the field of battle while subjecting themselves to great risk of injury. The best way to create the “year of the Fan” is to give them the best Players and action on the field which is why Fans support and celebrate their AFL Teams.