Labor Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Retirees

No clones were harmed in the making of the post. Any resemblance to clones, living or deceased, is purely coincidental.

There is unrest among fans of the National Football League.  A group of retired NFL players have declared their intentions to leave the Republic file a complaint against both the NFL Players' Association and the NFL owners.  This separate movement, under the leadership of the mysterious Count Dooku former players Carl Eller, Franco Harris, Marcus Allen and Priest Holmes may make it difficult for the limited number of Jedi Knights players and owners to hammer out a collective bargaining agreement and end the lockout.  To learn more about every NFL fan's "favorite" saga, make the jump to lightspeed.

Just when we thought there might be a chance the lockout could end without affecting the NFL season, we have this.  A group of retired NFL players are filing suit against all 32 NFL teams, the NFL, the plaintiffs named in the Brady et. al. lawsuit, and DeMaurice Smith to prevent any further discussion by the NFLPA about retiree benefits, such as better pensions and help for medical treatments, and so forth.  The retirees believe the players aren't looking out for their interests, and haven't been since they decertified and filed their antitrust lawsuit back in March.  To be honest, I can't say I blame them too much for feeling that way. 

Over the course of CBA negotiations, lawyers for the players blanched at the idea of using some of the money within the salary cap to pay for retiree benefits.  The current numbers being mentioned would dedicate $320 million within the salary cap and $320 million outside the cap to be spent on retirement benefits, for a total of $640 million dollars over a 10 year span (the proposed length of the CBA).  Without that money from inside the cap, those figures shrink to $32 million/year for 10 years. 

Doesn't sound so bad, right?  Sure it does, if you leave out the fact that as of last December, only 3,154 players received pension benefits at a cost of $63.7 million, it would be a good deal.  Even if they left the numbers alone, the amount the retired players would get would barely cover just their pensions from last year.  That's not including medical and disability benefits in the package.  If I were a retired player and the current players were trying to keep money that's supposed to go for my benefits in their pocket, I'd file suit too, and I'd certainly want to prevent them from negotiating retirement benefits on my behalf. 

In many ways, this reminds me of two children squabbling over who will be taking care of their aged father and how much each of them have to spend, with neither side giving the father any chance to have a say in the matter.  And that's what these retired players really want.  They feel like they've been cut off from the conversation and are being blocked from joining the negotiating table.  They want to negotiate retirement benefits separately from the players.

Whether this will hold up CBA negotiations is still up in the air.  Ultimately, I don't think it will.  The retired players are well aware that time is running out before the lockout affects the NFL schedule.  Most figure the very latest the lockout can last without affecting the season is the middle of July.  Even if it is just a couple of preseason games missed, that's still a good $200 million per game that would be lost, and that's money that would go towards the salary cap.  Nobody wants that to happen.  Besides, there's still some question as to whether the retired players have standing in the Brady et. al. lawsuit.  If they can't prove they have standing, the lawsuit won't last for long.  If the lawsuit does stand, then we could see the following happen:

From the New York Times:

To streamline the process — and, Hausfeld said, to avoid holding up the completion of a deal that would start this season on time — retired players have offered to negotiate a dollar figure with the league and current players, based on what the retirees say are realistic projections of future costs. The retirees would then devise the programs in conjunction with the league after a new collective bargaining agreement is reached.

I do hope the next time I write about the lockout is to announce its end.

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