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.