USWNT and American football settle equal pay lawsuit

A six-year fight for equal pay that pitted key members of the World Cup-winning United States women’s soccer team against their sport’s ...

A six-year fight for equal pay that pitted key members of the World Cup-winning United States women’s soccer team against their sport’s national governing body ended on Tuesday morning with a settlement that included a multimillion-dollar payment to the players and a promise by their federation to equalize salaries between the men’s and women’s national teams.

Under the terms of the agreement, the athletes – a group including several dozen current and former women’s national team players – will split $24 million in payments from the federation, US Soccer. The bulk of that figure is made up of back pay, a tacit admission that pay for the men’s and women’s teams had been unequal for years.

Perhaps more notable than the payment, however – at least for the players – is US Soccer’s commitment to equalize salaries between the men’s and women’s national teams in all competitions, including the World Cup, in the next collective agreements of the teams. This gap was once considered an impassable chasm preventing any sort of settlement; if shut down by the federation amid ongoing negotiations with both teams, the change could funnel millions of dollars into a new generation of players.

The settlement depends on the ratification of a new contract between US Soccer and the women’s players’ union. Once finalized, it will resolve any remaining claims in the sex discrimination lawsuit players filed in 2019.

“It was not an easy process to get to this point,” US Soccer president Cindy Parlow Cone said in a phone interview. “The most important thing here is that we move forward, and we move forward together.”

For US Soccer, the settlement is a costly end to a years-long legal battle that had damaged its reputation, severed ties with sponsors and soured her relationship with some of her most popular stars, including Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd. US Soccer had no obligation to settle with the women’s team; a federal judge in 2020 had rejected players’ equal pay argumentsdepriving them of almost all of their legal leverage, and the players’ appeal was not certain to succeed.

For this reason, the settlement represents an unexpected victory for the players: nearly two years after losing in court in a devastating decision, they were able to obtain not only an eight-figure settlement, but also a commitment from the federation to adopt the reforms themselves. the judge dismissed.

Morgan, in a phone interview, called the settlement a “monumental victory for us and for women.”

“What we decided to do,” she said, “was to get recognition of the discrimination from US Soccer, and we received it through back pay in the regulation. We have strived for fair and equitable treatment when it comes to working conditions, and we have succeeded the regulation of working conditions. And we decided to have equal pay for us and the men’s team across US Soccer, and we achieved that.

In return for payment and US Soccer’s commitment to address equal pay in future contracts with its two marquee teams, the players agreed to release the federation from all remaining claims in the gender discrimination lawsuit. of the team.

The process could take months. The men’s and women’s teams have already held joint negotiation sessions with US Soccer, but for the deal to work – the federation is seeking a single collective bargaining agreement that covers both national teams – the men’s players’ association will have to agree to share or surrender. , millions of dollars in potential World Cup payouts from FIFA, world soccer’s governing body. These payments, set by FIFA and exponentially larger for the men’s World Cup than for the corresponding women’s tournament, are at the heart of equal pay.

Cone, a former member of the women’s team, said in September that the federation would not sign new collective bargaining agreements with either team that did not match the World Cup prize money.

“We’re not opposed,” Cone said at the time. “It may seem that way sometimes, but we are in the same team, we all have the same goal. It’s just how to get there.

The players’ long battle with US Soccer, which is not only their employer but also the federation that governs the sport in America, had propelled them to the forefront of a broader struggle for equality in women’s sport and has gained support from other athletes, celebrities, politicians and presidential candidates. In recent years, players, teams and even athletes from other sports — hockey gold medalists, Canadian soccer pros, WNBA players – had reached out to the American players and their union for advice in their efforts to secure similar pay and working conditions gains.

“We firmly believe it is our responsibility,” Rapinoe said in 2019, “not just for our team and for future American players, but for players around the world – and frankly women around the world – to feel like they have an ally to stand up for, to fight for what they believe in, to fight for what they deserve and what they feel they have earned.

Many of these players and teams have managed to achieve significant wins – Norway, Australia and the Netherlands are among the countries whose football associations have pledged to close the gender pay gap – even as the case of American players dragged on.

The fight for equal pay began almost six years ago, when five star players filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission accusing US Soccer of wage discrimination. The women, key members of a team that were reigning World Cup champions and Olympic champions at the time, claimed they earned just 40% of what men’s national team players were paid . The players – Morgan, Rapinoe, Lloyd, Hope Solo and Becky Sauerbrunn – said they ran out of bonuses, appearance fees and even meal money while in training camps .

“The numbers speak for themselves,” Solo said, although US Soccer immediately disputed them. Male players, Solo said, “get paid more to show up than we get paid to win major championships.”

Almost immediately, football fans took sides in the fight, cutting American football down the middle. The federation briefly argued that the men made more money and got higher ratings, and therefore deserved higher pay, but quickly backed away from their position amid public backlash, fury players and a deeper reading of the Equal Pay Act.

By then, the parties were already exchanging the first of what would be many shots in the media and in court. The federation won a ruling that prevented players from boycotting the 2016 Olympics as they demanded new contracts, but only after an embarrassing gaffe in which one of its court filings failed to redact the home addresses and personal email accounts of about two dozen top players.

Subsequent depositions produced uncomfortable exchanges that PR-savvy players weaponized on social media and in slogans they sold on T-shirts. But they also produced statements that the players would not forgive.

In March 2020, months after the women’s team won their second consecutive Women’s World Cup, US Soccer lawyers argued in a court filing that playing for the men’s team required more “skill” and ” responsibility” than the feminine equivalent.

“To see this blatant misogyny and sexism as an argument used against us is really disappointing,” Rapinoe said, adding, “I know we’re in a contentious fight, but this crossed a line.

A settlement seemed the likeliest solution for the parties since April 2020, when women’s trial judge R. Gary Klausner of the United States District Court for the Central District of California dismissed the argument that they were consistently underpaid and said US Soccer backed up its claim that the female team had actually earned more “on a cumulative and average per game basis” than the men’s team in the years covered by the lawsuit.

The women’s team had, in one of the great ironies of the matter, fallen victim to their own success. Choosing to fight American football when they were at the peak of their power as World Cup champions, the women also picked the absolute worst time to line up a few years of their salary against a few years of the men’s salary. while the men at the time sank into the competition.

By failing to qualify for the only men’s World Cup contested during the trial window, the men became ineligible for millions of dollars in performance bonuses, even though the women collected bonuses – twice – for winning their World Cup and earned a higher salary after successfully negotiating new contracts.

The women have vowed to appeal the judge’s decision and a working conditions agreement reported compromise was still possible. At the time, Cone, a former Women’s National Team player, reiterated her lingering optimism that a bigger deal could put the fight behind US Soccer and the team, and her hopes of building ‘a different relationship’. with the women’s team and a chance to “rebuild trust” between the parties.

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Newsrust - US Top News: USWNT and American football settle equal pay lawsuit
USWNT and American football settle equal pay lawsuit
Newsrust - US Top News
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