What we need is something that will start to put pressure on the owners and players to really sit down and negotiate in earnest. Something to move the needle. Right now it’s all just posturing — legal and public relations — and we have two sides digging in like it’s World War I.
A ruling by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on the complaint filed by the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) that the owners are not negotiating in good faith would put some pressure on the owners to compromise. (The owners recently filed their own complaint saying the players are not negotiating in good faith but the two are handled separately.)
Union Executive Director Billy Hunter met with the NLRB Tuesday and Wednesday, according to the Sports Business Journal (via I am a GM). Which means the notoriously slow-moving NLRB is getting closer to making a decision. If the NLRB rules that the owners are negotiating in bad faith, they can go to the courts to have the lockout lifted.
The NBPA has kept players and agents up to date on the ongoing NLRB investigation, according to player agent Bill Duffy.
“We are in support of it and everyone is waiting to see what the ruling is,” Duffy said. He added that he had heard a decision could be made in as soon as two weeks, but (union attorney Larry) Katz said that time frame was a bit ambitious.
What is really going to put pressure on the two sides is training camps being delayed and then games being lost, pressure that starts to really build about a month from now and into the end of September. Which should be right around when the NLRB gets around to making a ruling.
People, hope that all that pressure works and really starts to move these negotiations. Because if we get to mid-September and the two sides are barely talking, then the NLRB does not rule for the players, then the union will seriously consider decertification. And if that happens we could be missing a whole lot of games, maybe a season’s worth.
You knew it wouldn’t take long, and here it is: NBA players union Billy Hunter has responded to the NBA today filing a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board and a lawsuit against the union, saying that it is the union negotiating in bad faith.
“The litigation tactics of the NBA today are just another example of their bad faith bargaining and we will seek the complete dismissal of the actions as they are totally without merit. The NBA Players Association has not made any decision to disclaim its role as the collective bargaining representative of the players and has been engaged in good faith bargaining with the NBA for over two years. We urge the NBA to engage with us at the bargaining table and to use more productively the short time we have left before the 2011-12 season is seriously jeopardized.”
The union earlier had filed a complaint with the NLRB accusing the owners of not negotiating in good faith (that complaint is still being investigated). The owners countered Tuesday with their own NLRB complaint for bad faith bargaining, and one-upped it with a lawsuit. The point of the NBA’s moves are clear — it’s a pre-emptive strike against the union decertifying and players suing the league for anti-trust (what the NFL players union did).
I’ll leave it up to the lawyers and judges to determine who has negotiated in bad faith by the legal definition. In the common sense use of the term, neither side has shown good faith. The owners — driven by hardliners who overpaid for their franchises and seem to want to punish the players for that — have called for radical changes to NBA’s financial structure that, as a group, are over the top. The players’ concessions have been small in the grand scheme of things as they fight to play goalie and just protect what they have.
It may take a victory for one side in the courts to get serious talks moving forward. And that will take time. Like miss part if not all of the season time. The two sides have about two months to figure this out before regular season games are lost. And after yesterday and today, that seems unlikely.