Top Negotiation Items for 2021 NFL Talks

Here is some insight on some key issues to resolve in the next NFL contract negotiations.

Standard Provisions NFL Players Should Have in Their Collective Bargaining Agreement

By Jodi J. Woodruff

12/19/18

This article details standard collective bargaining agreement provisions for NFL Players. It focuses on three areas of conformance: 1) Short Term and Long Term Disability Leave/Pay 2) Standard Disciplinary Grievance Processes and 3) Guaranteed Pay.

1.       What is a CBA?

First, what is a “CBA” or a “Collective Bargaining Agreement”? This is a standard contract regarding wages, hours, and terms and conditions of employment between management (in this case, the “NFL”) and players (in this case, represented by the “NFLPA”, or National Football League Players’ Association).

It is negotiated by the players’ representative, the “Union”, or the “NFLPA”, and corporate management, in this case, the “NFL”. It lays out the terms and conditions of employment with the company in question, and goes into such areas as benefits, grievance procedures, and leave time.

The NFL’s contract is due to expire in 2021. The NFLPA said to plan for either a lock-out or strike at the conclusion of this particular contract. i.e. They think it is going to get contentious. A lock-out means the Management locks the players out from coming to work. A strike is where the employees walk from the job until they get better work conditions.

2.      Standard Contract Clauses in That CBA

The CBA is filled with terms and conditions of employment. Standard contract clauses that appear in most CBAs reflect pay, wages, hours, terms and conditions of employment, benefits, holiday pay/days off, standard leave provisions, and more. (grievance procedures, etc.)

3.       Three Clauses to Add to the Next CBA Negotiations in the NFL

There are three clauses that I would suggest should be added to the next upcoming CBA negotiation. Those are a very clearly stated neutral disciplinary grievance procedure, a guaranteed contract clause, and short term/long term disability provisions. I might also suggest they consider adding premium holiday pay for holidays and better health care coverage provisions. (A clear policy that covers a player during the full life of the contract, with say 1 year vesting, and covers the player thereafter.) 

But this article is just focusing on the three provisions outlined above.

4.       Provision 1 Addition: A Neutral Disciplinary Grievance Procedure

There is a grievance procedure in place in the current collective bargaining agreement. It is just being misinterpreted. I suggest in the future, the Union adds a clear tri-partite independent grievance process to address disciplinary matters as these arise in the NFL.

What that means is each party will pick a neutral person to arbitrate their cause – generally an attorney chosen by the parties to represent them. Then, both parties choose an independent neutral arbitrator, from a list provided by the American Arbitration Association, or “AAA” to address their dispute. 

The parties choose the arbitrator via a “strike list” provided to each party’s neutral arbitrator. That “strike list” contains say 7 names of independent arbitrators, provided by the AAA. Each party’s representative then goes down the list and “strikes” arbitrator’s off the list until they reach one arbitrator left on the list.  That remaining arbitrator becomes the neutral arbitrator who will resolve the dispute between the parties.

This provision should be put in place to handle all contract interpretations and disciplinary issues that arise during the course of the contract. (i.e. all “disputes” between parties.)

This is a standard provision in all collective bargaining agreements. If it is not already part of the current CBA, it should be added to the new one. 

5.       Provision 2 Addition: Guaranteed Contracts for Players

This is a hot and sensitive topic for the NFL players. In fact, this could be “the strike issue” of 2021. 

They want guaranteed contracts for all players just like the NBA currently has.  Currently, an NBA player is still guaranteed his base compensation if cut because of inability to play or injury. The NFL players would like the same consideration from the NFL. The NFL are likely to fight this one however. So, this very well might end up being the actual “strike issue” for the NFLPA and players.

6.       Provision 3 Addition: Short Term and Long Term Leave/Disability Insurance.

There are two components to this provision. First is the right to take time off for short term and long term disability is guaranteed in the contract. Second is the issuance of insurance payments to cover employees off for disability leave. 

Typically, the insurance pay out is 2/3s of their total wage compensation, or whatever is required by law, whichever is higher. Short term leave covers up to 26 weeks of disability in a standard labor contract. (These are consecutive weeks, not football weeks.) After 26 weeks have passed, many contracts provide long term disability insurance for employees as well. That will cover an additional 26 consecutive weeks. 

Finally, many current collective bargaining agreements also offer the option to purchase more insurance to cover for injuries that last longer than the typical work year. That additional coverage option must be purchased by the employee.

Obviously, this provision might have to be tweaked a little to meet the needs of a football season as opposed to a work schedule. However, the provision itself is a standard include in all collective bargaining agreements and, therefore, should be entertained by the parties as a necessary addition to their current CBA.

7.       Some Honorable Mentions

I would be remiss without mentioning some other provisions that should be considered for the upcoming negotiations: holiday premium pay and better health care benefits.

Obviously, players do have to play on holidays when called to do so. That is one of the woes of the NFL. However, a player should be paid premium pay, at say time and a half or double time, for the time he has to play on a holiday. This is standard language in typical CBAs.

Also, a more streamlined health care benefits system is in order. Players should receive standard health care insurance after one year of play in the NFL and it should continue with a program set up for retirees. This is very typical, and a cornerstone of typical CBA contracts.

8.       Conclusion

There you have it, some standard collective bargaining terms to consider for the next collective bargaining session. I hope this helps. 😊

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ABOUT JODI J. WOODRUFF:

Jodi is the author of two books, “NFL Free Agency” and “Free Agency in Pro Football”. Jodi is also an attorney with over 7 years of labor relations/antitrust background where she had negotiated a number of collective bargaining agreements and has handled 100’s of labor relations grievances. Jodi is also the creator of web sites such as, “THE WALL”, www.thewall.rocks (A site that markets rookie free agents to the football pros.) and www.freeagencyprofootball.com

Jodi graduated from the University of Cincinnati, College of Law with an emphasis on NFL law related issues and labor relations/antitrust/corporate law background.

She can be reached at nfl@jodiwoodruff.net.

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