Tag: NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement

Derek Fisher

NBA union did not poll players before taking big step Monday


There were 30 NBA team player representatives — and about another 20 players total — who were in the room in New York on Monday and they voted unanimously to file a Notice of Disclaimer, essentially decertifying the union.

But is that what the full union would have voted to do?

Probably not (many think if the owners’ latest offer had been put to vote of players it would have passed), but we’ll never know because the union did not poll its members.

In fact, union officials were hostile to the idea, reports Henry Abbott at TrueHoop, saying that to do so was to let David Stern and the owners win.

The gist of the response was that you cannot give your adversary direct access to the membership. “That’s not how any union in America, that I’m aware of, operates,” said (union legal counsel Jeffrey) Kessler. If the NBA is just going to send offers straight to the players, why even have a union? The idea is that the union is savvier, and knows a good deal when it sees one. And only when the union is sure that the deal is in players’ best interests will they present it to the workers.

Rockets guard Kevin Martin, by text on Monday morning, said he didn’t care to be represented that way: “I think it’s fair for every player to have a vote, because we’re all grown men and its time for the players to control their career decisions, and not one player per team. If it comes down to a final decision, you got to be fair.”

It’s one thing for the union to reject the offer and look for a way to continue to negotiate. But to start the decertification process without polling the constituency? That’s a big step.

But that’s also where we are.

Only hope for NBA season is rational negotiations. Which is bad.


The courts are not going to solve the NBA lockout.

That’s where the process is headed after the union started taking steps to abandon its right to negotiate for the players. Anti-trust lawsuits will follow. Along with plenty of heated rhetoric from both sides.

Yet, only one thing can save part of an NBA season at this point — rational people resuming negotiations, something we have yet to see much of from either side. Still, that is the only hope for fans who want a 2011-12 NBA season.

It could happen; there are plenty of smart people who have predicted these talks would come down to the first week in January and the drop-dead date for a season to take place — just like happened in 1999. And some kind of season would be saved, just like then. It’s just hard to be even that optimistic right now.

League commissioner David Stern is right that the players’ plan to decertify the union, followed by anti-trust lawsuits against the league, is more negotiating tactic than long-term play. It certainly is all about leverage in negotiations, unless you think the players are willing to miss not only this season but the next one (and maybe the one after that) to take its anti-trust efforts all the way through the courts to a ruling (they are not). That’s more than $4 billion in lost player salary not to mention the legal fees. No way the players will push it that far.

This is a grab by the players at temporary leverage in the negotiations. They have felt powerless, backed into a corner with offers they didn’t like and ultimatums from Stern, so they finally reached for the one big weapon they had.

What happens now? Nobody knows. Not really. The goal of the union’s moves today was to throw uncertainty into the system, and it has done that. We know there will be anti-trust lawsuits, we know the sides will sling verbal arrows at each other, but after that this is unpredictable.

Except that again, at some point, the owners and players will have to talk and negotiate a deal.

This decertification process is basically what the NFL union did — however, the narrow rulings in that case don’t give us much of a picture for how the efforts will fare in the NBA. But in the end, the NFL is playing right now because its owners and players hammered out a deal at the negotiating table.

It’s the same for the NBA— this will be a negotiated settlement when all is said and done. The difference is NFL owners and players seemed more willing to compromise to make a deal (particularly the owners who do turn a profit in the NFL).

Right now no talks are scheduled and you can bet it will be weeks (at least) before the sides talk again. If when those talks start the owners stick with Stern’s promise to use a “reset” offer that gives the players less money and to put in a hard salary cap, then those talks were going nowhere.

But if the sides can negotiate from where they left off in their latest talks, they are fully capable of making a deal. They are not that far apart. There are philosophical and systematic issues, but they are solvable.

We just need some rationality. At some point. From somewhere. Anywhere.

David Stern calls union’s move “bad negotiating tactic”

David Stern, Adam Silver

UPDATE 3:58 pm: Here is commissioner David Stern’s official statement, released by the league:

“At a bargaining session in February 2010, Jeffrey Kessler, counsel for the union, threatened that the players would abandon the collective bargaining process and start an antitrust lawsuit against our teams if they did not get a bargaining resolution that was acceptable to them.

“In anticipation of this day, the NBA filed an unfair labor practice charge before the National Labor Relations Board asserting that, by virtue of its continued threats, the union was not bargaining in good faith. We also began a litigation in federal court in anticipation of this same bargaining tactic.

“The NBA has negotiated in good faith throughout the collective bargaining process, but — because our revised bargaining proposal was not to its liking – the union has decided to make good on Mr. Kessler’s threat.

“There will ultimately be a new collective bargaining agreement, but the 2011-12 season is now in jeopardy.”

3:35 pm: Minutes after the NBA players’ union held a press conference saying they would decertify, David Stern went on ESPN to decry the move and say it was a mistake by players that would cost the season.

Stern spun it so that it was the players who pushed the button, saying his side had put forth a fair labor offer that the players rejected. Here are the key points of Stern’s comments.

• Stern says this wasn’t really a surprise, that the union and its legal counsel have threatened this from the start. The league expected this, which is why they filed a pre-emptive lawsuit to try to cut it off at the knees. (That case is early in the process, and there have been no rulings.)

• Along those lines, Stern keeps calling decertification a negotiating tactic. Which it is. But by all indications (based on the owners’ actions) it is the one they feared.

• Stern again tries to appeal directly to the players, saying they should ask the union why they did this now. That has been his pattern for weeks, to use the media to talk directly to the players. He talks about the players’ missing paychecks a lot.

• Stern said they did not give the players an ultimatum. Yes, they did. A proposal where you say, “If you don’t take it, we’re going to make a much worse offer next time” is an ultimatum. And it’s that hardline, take-it-or-leave-it phrasing that doomed this process as much as anything else. Neither side has negotiated well, acting a lot more like 5-year-olds fighting over who gets to play with the Transformer toy.

• Stern is spot on with this comment: “If they were going to do this, maybe they should have done this a long time ago so we had a chance to save the season. But they seem hell-bent on self-destruction.”

• Man, Stern really hates NBA legal council Jeffrey Kessler. It’s palpable. And by all accounts mutual.