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MLS/PRO Lockout of PSRA

Discussion in 'Referee' started by RedStar91, Feb 13, 2014.

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  1. RedStar91

    RedStar91 Member

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    Last edited: Feb 13, 2014


  2. Alberto

    Alberto Member+

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    Actually this does look serious. It looks to me that PRO have been playing hardball with the union. The threat of a strike and the use of scab referees is a real possibility. Rarely are these issues easily resolved. The fact the union alleges or states that PRO refused meetings is a sure sign this matter is far from resolution.
     
  3. GoDawgsGo

    GoDawgsGo Member

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    Apparently Walton wasn't paying much attention to the NFL debacle with replacement refs.

    The comments from the peanut gallery in the article are hilarious though.
     
  4. billf

    billf Member+

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    I think PRO is probably figuring that few will have sympathy for the referees and the PRSA is probably thinking that the pendulum will swing the other way if we get to see a couple weeks of replacements... Either way, a strike will be net negative IMO. I hope everyone keeps their senses.
     
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  5. socal lurker

    socal lurker Member+

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    It's all guess work on inadequate info at this point, but my guess is that there will not be a contract to start the season, but there will also not be a strike. It seems to me that both sides have more to lose than gain by a strike. Strikes are threatened far more often than they take place.
     
  6. Alberto

    Alberto Member+

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    Honestly, I hope there is a strike if no agreement is reached. Not to do so undermines the strength of the union.
     
  7. socal lurker

    socal lurker Member+

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    Depends. IMHO, a foolish strike does more to damage a union than not striking. Wheher it makes sense to strike or keep negotiating typically depends upon how close the sides are and what the remaining issues are. When the issues that are open are purely economic, balancing the losses of the strike against what can realistically be won is part of the equation -- many strikes (and lockouts, too) result in pyrrhic victories. The players and referees are both rolling toward the WC -- no one wants the ugliness of a strike to affect that. Which is why my guess is ongoing preseason brinksmanship followed by a "we're not going to hurt the game right now by striking, but we still have that option if we need too" announcement at the start of the season (allowing our WC hopeful refs on the field), followed by an announcement by PRO that "they've been more than reasonable," followed by an agreement in the third week or so of the season that is somewhere between the "last and final" offers that had been made by the two sides (perhaps with the help of a mediator to give each side cover for backing down from its final position). But just a guess. :)
     
  8. FLRef

    FLRef Member

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    Especially if the next tier down refuses to officiate (as Division I officials did in 2012 with the NFL). Surely there are some talented grade 8s out there who didn't climb the ladder by choice...
     
  9. rkucenski

    rkucenski Member

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    Only until July 1. After that you need to be a 7 to more than U17 ;)
     
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  10. MassachusettsRef

    MassachusettsRef Moderator Staff Member

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    I'm going to avoid commenting on the merits of the dispute. But I will say one thing about this issue.

    Given the nature of referee development in this country, the vast majority of the "next tier" (Grade 4s, NCs, and the more experienced States that travel to tournaments) are close personally with a lot of the members of PRO. They are colleagues in lower-division pro, college and even amateur matches. And they see them regularly at settings like Dallas Cup, Regionals and DA events.

    There would probably be some exceptions here or there, where some really ego-driven people who might not see an MLS future for themselves otherwise would take advantage of the situation and work games if a strike occurred. But I would imagine, on the whole, that the next several tiers would refuse any sort of MLS assignments in such a situation. They would do so either out of friendship/allegiance or due to a fear of alienating PRO members and ruining their own futures if they are on the cusp of MLS. I have no idea whatsoever if this is weighing into the calculus on the PRO side, but I'm fairly confident that it would be impossible to find enough qualified officials (let's say Grade 5 and up), who could pass the fitness tests, to cover an MLS weekend. Let's just hope we never need to find out.
     
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  11. Alberto

    Alberto Member+

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    You are just rationalizing why not to strike. If this nascent union does not stand up for itself, if they lose solidarity on issues of pay scale and the other sticking points of the collective bargaining agreement then they stand to lose everything they were hoping to create for their membership.
     
  12. akindc

    akindc Member

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    Exactly. If you form a union, and cave at the first sign of trouble, you might as well dissolve it...it'll be pointless after that.
     
  13. jayhonk

    jayhonk Member+

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    I would take that bet.
    Across a population, in this day and age, union commitment varies. And fellow feeling among those not in the striking group varies even more. So, as merely a matter of probabilities and numbers, my guess is that MLS could find the bodies from the 5 and up group.
     
  14. thearbiter

    thearbiter Member

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    This is exactly what I would expect to happen in the event of a work stoppage - strike or lockout. Only those referees without an expectation of ever making the top flight would take on these games.

    The referee family is a tight-knit group and surely PRO is aware of the Interliga assigning fiasco of the early 2000s.

    They will need a plan B - and perhaps C and D. When they can't cover domestically, do they turn to Mexico? The islands nations?
     
  15. MassachusettsRef

    MassachusettsRef Moderator Staff Member

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    I don't want to enter into a political debate, which is part of the reason I'm trying (poorly) to avoid this thread. But, to me, it's not a union commitment issue. I imagine that a lot of people that would be looked to in order to referee MLS if a strike occurs feel the same way, and that was the point I was trying to convey in my post.

    That could pass the requisite fitness tests? No, I don't think so. Grade 4s and NCs that can pass the tests are still looking toward a future in MLS. You might find some older 4s or 5s who are still fit, don't see an MLS future for themselves, and don't have close relations with current PRO officials. But you're not going to find 70+ of them.
     
  16. Paper.St.Soap.Co

    Paper.St.Soap.Co Member+

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    I don't pretend to speak for the masses but I personally concur with Mass here. I retired as a Grade 5. Under 30 years of age. Could pass the fitness test tomorrow with my eyes closed. Not being flippant, I just have never found the test all that challenging (talk to me in ten years and my answer might change). I don't have a ton of close contacts within PRO, but even so...

    I wouldn't come out of retirement to do these games.
     
  17. socal lurker

    socal lurker Member+

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    No, not rationalizing at all -- though I will confess I hope a strike can be averted because I don't think it would be good for U.S. soccer at this time. (I think MLS/PRO already recognize that and its going to affect their negotiating stance.)

    Standing up for itself and striking are not synonyms. Striking is the nuclear option. That doesn't mean its the wrong option, but it means its not always the right answer -- it depends upon what tehy have already gained, whether the differences are sufficiently sharp that they cannot be resolved through ongoing negotiation, which also turns on the trust and scope of the proposals going back and forth, etc. My guess is that there will not be enough difference and lack of trust to warrant a strike on opening day -- especially since the referees know that MLS/PRO also don't want the black eye to the sport of a strike. (I'm not suggesting that the referees should avoid a strike at all costs -- that would be a losing strategy.)

    (I'm also curious how strong the union sentiment is within the ranks of referees. Professional unions have different dynamics and motivations among members than traditional working class unions. For many of these guys, I suspect money is far from the primary driver, and they may well be unwilling to strike on pure monetary issues -- especially any who see the clock ticking on trying to become a FIFA. Conversely, PRO could be overestimatingt that potential reluctance and therefore over playing its hand. We have no way of knowing as both parties appear to be (wisely) not engaging in a broad public debate.)
     
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  18. Alberto

    Alberto Member+

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    I am not optimistic regarding this being resolved with no impact on the schedule. The article states MLS/PRO have taken a hard line on the collective bargaining agreement. The article further states MLS/PRO have postponed negotiation meetings. I don't know whether this is all rhetoric from the union or is in fact true, but a representative from PSRA stated the Washington Post blog is accurate. This both saddens me and is very troubling. If both sides were so interested in avoiding negatively impacting the league, this matter would have been resolved several months ago. It's a big issue because it involves the initial collective bargaining agreement and the resulting compensation package for the referees are fair and equitable.

    I am frankly surprised that there is not more solidarity behind the referees on this matter on this forum. We have never until this moment had an organization that represented our interests. We have historically been underpaid. The $50+K that is paid to the professional referees per annum is a pittance. Higher game fees, higher travel expenses and a benefits package which I assume are the financial obstacles to reaching an agreement should not be this difficult.

    I am all for PRO and it's growth and mission in creating a true professional referee program, but referees need to be properly compensated. The fact that the vote to unionize was not unanimous 55 for and 7 against, says something about the mindset of many referees. We have to change this belief that we are not worthy of just compensation and must recognize our importance to the game. No players, no field, no ball, no goals and no referee and you cannot have a soccer match. Social Lurker in your posts I see a common thread that the referees should not rock the boat for the sake of the game. Referees are a required component of the game at every level. I do not believe that PSRA is asking for anything that is obscene. Knowing referees we are proverbial lambs in our behavior.

    It's a given MLS is playing hardball. MLS and PRO did not want a union. In fact they insisted that PSRA go through the certification process which is fine, but shows they did not welcome a union with open arms. MLS and PRO are not doing professional referees any favors by denying a just compensation package and with less than seventy officials (referees and assistants) they are not breaking the bank.
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2014
  19. billf

    billf Member+

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    We're talking about pro soccer in the US. The history of how strikes in pro soccer have worked out in North America isn't great. Personally, I am not sure I'd feel great about striking a year after quitting a career to be a full time referee. I think there is less to lose for the AR's. I'd also view a strike over the inclusion of a foreign referee as a bit petty too.
    I would argue that the PRSA does not represent referee interests as a whole. It represents the interests of the group of referees who were lucky enough to work in MLS and then be invited to join PRO. This doesn't have anything to do with referees working at the grass roots levels and I also imagine that this is also about protecting the status of those on the PRO list which will make it a bit harder for others to join that club, like Kelly.

    As a referee, I learned that no one is out there looking after me. As an independent contractor, rather than agitate, I just chose to work where I felt valued. Now we can talk about a just compensation package all day, but that is always going to be a subjective thing. Whatever the package is, it was enough to get a number of individuals to forgo whatever it was they did to become full time soccer referees.

    I also have to look at this from the MLS perspective and for pro soccer in this country as a whole. It has a new CBA to negotiate with the PU next year. That relationship has been tense, but good because the two sides know a strike doesn't do much good for anyone. There are going to be a number of issues that come up there, like the lower end salaries, retention of veteran players, travel, and accommodations. MLS, while growing, is still a low margin business so there may not be that much money in the pot when you look at all of the other things on which MLS is expected to spend. If the league gives PRO a sweet deal, what do you think the CBA negotiations will look like?
     
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  20. Alberto

    Alberto Member+

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    Bill, I agree it doesn't impact the vast majority of referees. It only impacts those referees in PRO and I agree that MLS is a low margin, small potatoes league. That said there are benefits for referees to have a CBA and furthermore, though we may not know the specifics of the CBA, it's not like what PSRA is requesting is going to break the bank. Referees in general are quite docile.
     
  21. billf

    billf Member+

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    What are they asking for, and how do you measure that against, for instance, charter flights for teams making long road trips, better quality hotels on the road, housing assistance for the lower paid players, a higher average salary for players, etc?
     
  22. Alberto

    Alberto Member+

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    The problem is that we that are on the outside cannot assess the validity of either side given that my request for a copy of the PSRA's CBA points of negotiation were denied as they do not to publicize them.

    I imagine we will all have to wait after the agreement is hammered out.
     
  23. NHRef

    NHRef Member+

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    Here's why the won't strike: Geiger and his crew and the WC in the summer. Simple as that.

    My understanding is Geiger and crew are NOT in the union. A strike, lockout, anything effecting the ability of Geiger and his crew to be working MLS games will simply not happen. US Soccer, and the referee program and PRO will not do anything to jeopardize that WC appointment. Geiger and crew, supported by US Soccer has put so much time and effort in to good showings over the last several years on the international front, he has a shot at doing some very visible games which will be good for US Soccer and the referee program.

    Nothing will jeopardize that. If they strike, it won't be at the beginning of the season, it will be after the WC.
     
  24. billf

    billf Member+

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    Then how can you make a claim that they aren't asking for much?

    The league and the players are pretty easy to read about what they might ask. I honestly have to take the referee hat off and look at this a fan and customer of the league. When I think of all of the issues in the league and ways it could better spend it's money, how much it pays the referees and how secure their positions in PRO are lower on that list. I'd like to see deeper rosters, more attractive entry level pay, a more developed reserve system or involvement with USL Pro to develop players, better travel arrangements and accommodations for teams going on the road, minimum standards for academies and training facilities, and other types of things that make a difference on the field of play. I would prefer the league didn't have to massively overspend to get players like Bradley and Depmsey back home. I will also concede that the quality of the referees is part of the equation, just lower on the priority list.

    I also think we need to be cognizant of the negative effect strikes have had on pro soccer in the US. If everyone is ultimately looking at growing the game, then it will be possible to get a deal. The way the NFLPA handled the relationship between the league and the first players union, hurt more than it helped.
     
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  25. socal lurker

    socal lurker Member+

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    Agree -- that's why we're guessing. But I also think it is a good thing that they aren't publicizing their positions -- publicized positions can be polarizing as everyone knows publicly if you back down.

    But I still think, most likely, that if the non-economic issues are laregely resolved, there won't be a strike. I would expect the issues of biggest concern from PRO/MLS perspective is their ability to make decisions about who is reffing games, promote, demote, etc. (See MLB, where removing a poor performer is extremely difficult.) For the union, getting an initial CBA that provides key noneconomic value is also a core issue. My bet is still that the money issues will get worked out, but that both sides will posture into the first weeks of the season before inking the deal. We'll see.
     
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