A union representing professional football players made its latest move Thursday in a tense chess match with team owners that is expected shut down the National Football League next season.
According to terms announced Thursday, players on the NFL’s 32 teams will join local affiliates of the AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest labor federation. The deal is the latest attempt by NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith, a former Patton Boggs lawyer, to force concessions by the owners, who want a longer season and lower pay for players.
“The American labor movement is a testament that when working people stand together, we can tackle greed and take on any challenge,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a statement. “This act of solidarity is the kind of action we need to confront the issues facing all working people, especially in these difficult economic times.”
Smith, who replaced longtime players’ union head and former Oakland Raiders lineman Gene Upshaw, has attempted to remake the organization into a lobbying force since he started nearly two years ago. He recently joined the AFL-CIO’s board and has bulked up the union’s lobbying budget considerably.
This year alone, the NFLPA is on pace to pay Smith’s old firm $460,000 to press Members on the contract dispute, a 360 percent increase from its overall lobbying budget of two years ago, according to Secretary of the Senate records.
The players association did not comment on the deal.