The NFL’s Win-Win Labor Agreement

David Madland and Nick Bunker detail how the National Football League’s negotiations with its players work out best for everyone involved.

Read the full column (CAP Action)

The opening of the NFL season, usually an exciting time for fans, players, and owners, may be bittersweet this year because the owners of the National Football League are threatening to lock out the players next season—meaning canceled games—if the owners and the players’ union cannot agree to a new collective bargaining agreement by March 2011.

These negotiations are important not just to NFL fans but to all Americans because they show that collective bargaining—the process where unionized workers and management negotiate wages, benefits, and working conditions—can create significant benefits for both workers and owners. This is a process that most Americans no longer have first-hand knowledge of. The reason: Just 7 percent of the private-sector workforce today is unionized. That’s why the latest round of negotiations can help illustrate how unions can help level the playing field between workers and management.

Both NFL players and owners have done quite well under the current collective bargaining agreement. Median player salaries rose 9.4 percent between 2006 and 2009, and team values rose an impressive 16.2 percent over the same period. Such a win-win labor accord is obviously something both sides should want to renew.

That’s not the case today in many other industries, where some corporate managers view the current economic downturn as an opportunity to seek concessions from workers and cut costs, with even some quite profitable companies demanding that workers do the same job for far less than they once made. So when Drew Brees, the quarterback of the world champion New Orleans Saints, and other NFL stars negotiate together to seek the best deal they can get, ordinary workers who may be good at their job, but perhaps not the best in the world may recognize the importance of joining together to ensure they are treated fairly.

Read the full column (CAP Action)

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David Madland

Senior Fellow; Senior Adviser, American Worker Project

Nick Bunker

Research Associate