USWNT equal pay fight: Men’s team union blasts U.S. Soccer Federation for ‘false narrative’

The U.S. women’s national team received a strong statement of support on Wednesday in its ongoing equal pay battle. The union that represents players from the U.S. men’s national team accused the United States Soccer Federation of engaging in a “false narrative” against women’s team players.

Twenty-eight USWNT players are currently involved in a class-action lawsuit that alleges institutionalized gender discrimination by USSF that was filed on March 8 — International Women’s Day. The suit was filed in a Los Angeles federal court under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. In that lawsuit, the U.S. women’s national team players stated they are paid less than half of what the men make for performing similar duties for the same employer. The lawsuit also states that they spent more time in training camps and have more matches than the men. The USWNT has won the last two World Cups and just qualified for this summer’s Olympics.

The men missed the 2018 World Cup and lost the 2019 Gold Cup final. The USWNT has won four World Cups, more than any other women’s national team. 

From 2015 to 2018, the USWNT played 19 more games than the men. The 2017 CBA for the USWNT saw slight improvements but not nearly enough to bring it within a range comparable to the men, hence the battle rages on. 

Backing the USWNT’s pursuit for equal pay, the U.S. National Soccer Team Players Association released a statement on Thursday, accusing the USSF of gender discrimination. Here’s part of the statement:

With our unions working together since 1999, the goal was always to secure for the women comparable gains in pay and working conditions. For more than 20 years, the Federation has resisted any concept of equal pay or basic economic fairness for the USWNT players. Historically, the Federation also refused to include in the women’s CBA the same provisions as the men’s with respect to air travel, hotels, etc. This is systematic gender discrimination that should have never happened.

What we believe should happen is simple. Pay the women significantly more than our recently expired men’s deal. In our estimation, the women were due at least triple what our expired deal was worth in player compensation. We believe the Federation should have agreed to a deal directly tied to a fair share of the revenue players generate. That is what should have happened, based on the entire history of labor negotiations involving the men and women players and the Federation.  

Yes, the women’s 2017-2021 deal is worse than the men’s 2011-2018 deal. Yes, the Federation continues to discriminate against the women in their wages and working conditions. We understand why the Federation’s control, not only over the USWNT but also over the only women’s professional league in the United States, the NWSL, might have created tremendous pressure on the USWNT players to get a deal done, even if it was on completely unfair and discriminatory terms. Faced with a monopolist controlling their two primary potential employers and aware that a work stoppage could destroy the third effort at a women’s professional soccer league in the United States, it is our view that the women had no reasonable alternative but to accept the 2017-2021 terms the Federation demanded.

The USSF has yet to respond to this statement, but it’s a strong showing of support. The USWNT will host the SheBelieves Cup in March before playing in the Olympics in July. 

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