On Friday afternoon, Major League Soccer and the MLS Players Union announced that they will meet next week in Washington D.C. to resume labor negociations.
And they’ve accepted an offer of mediation from George H. Cohen, director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.
What’s this mean?
Since I didn’t read the words “binding arbitration” anywhere, it basically means that someone else will get to hear the league wax poetic about keeping its costs in line while the union speaks wistfully about things like freedom and fairness.
Or Mr. Cohen could read the sides sniping away at each other in the newspaper.
MLS president Don Garber is confident that the season will go ahead as scheduled, and accepting mediation is at least a token step in the right direction.
One thing worries me, though.
The union will NEVER have more leverage in these discussions than they have right now.
The World Cup, and the casual interest it may bring to the league, is the pink elephant in whatever room these meetings will be held in.
That new $200 million stadium in New York is another bonus for the players, since no owner in MLS wants a sparkling new stadium in the nation’s largest media market standing empty.
Of course the owners are willing to play this season under the terms of the old collective bargaining agreement and sure they’ll promise not to lock out the players.
The ball, to steal a metaphor from tennis, is in the players’ court.
Will they lob it back, adopt a live-and-let-live approach and start kicking balls in anger as scheduled later this month – new CBA or not?
Or will they go for the wicked forehand winner, take the hard line and try to hit the owners in the wallet in a World Cup season?
It’s going to be an interesting couple of weeks.