U.S. women fire their union boss

The U.S. women's national team's labor saga took a dramatic twist on Wednesday night when its union, the U.S. Women's National Team Players Association, dumped its outspoken executive director, Rich Nichols. The move comes four days before the expiration of the current labor agreement.

USWNTPA statement:

"Rich Nichols will no longer serve as counsel to the USWNT Players Association. We thank Rich for his service, and wish him well. We are focused on productive conversations with U.S. Soccer regarding our future. We are also grateful for the tremendous ongoing support for women's soccer from all of our beloved fans worldwide, and look forward to seeing everyone over the course of the NWSL season, as well as at the 2017 SheBelieves Cup in March."

Nichols, an attorney based in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, was named executive director of the players association in November 2014, replacing longtime union boss John Langel, and viewed as more aggressive than the Philadelphia-based Langel, who had been the union counsel since being certified as the exclusive bargaining representative for the women's national team in 2000.

Women's national team players and Nichols have been negotiating with U.S. Soccer for a new agreement to replace the one based on a 2013 memorandum of understanding.

The decision to dismiss Nichols comes almost a year to the day since he informed U.S. Soccer that the union intended to terminate the memorandum of understanding in 60 days and keep their options open about striking -- before the Rio Olympics -- if a new agreement wasn't reached.

U.S. Soccer took the USWNTPA to court -- and won its argument that the memorandum of understanding bound the parties to an agreement that did not expire until Dec. 31, 2016, and the players couldn't strike because they had otherwise agreed to operate under the terms of their old collective bargaining agreement negotiated in 2005, an agreement containing a no-strike clause.

In March, five players -- co-captains Becky Sauerbrunn and Carli Lloyd, Hope Solo, Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan -- filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, charging U.S. Soccer with inequalities in their pay and working conditions. That complaint with the EEOC remains ongoing.

The women have been frequent guests on national television programs -- including "60 Minutes" -- and received support from Senators Patty Murray and Dianne Feinstein.

Since then, Solo was suspended from the national team in the aftermath of her comments about Sweden's play in their Olympic quarterfinal match -- a move Nichols termed “excessive, unprecedented, disproportionate, and a violation of Ms. Solo’s First Amendment rights” -- and Morgan has moved to French club Lyon on a six-month loan.

No women's games have been scheduled for 2017 though a strike would now appear unlikely. The players have not given the required 60-day notice to terminate the existing agreement, which means they will begin 2017 working under the terms of the old agreement.

7 comments about "U.S. women fire their union boss".
  1. Carl Hudson, December 29, 2016 at 9:17 a.m.

    Once again, management steps on the throats of labor, and our courts not only support the stomping, they require that it be done with metal spiked boots. These young girls are not experienced enough in legalese to know what they want or need in a labor agreement. They perhaps were over-reaching in their salary demands, and under-reaching in other areas. What they need is a good experienced AGENT familiar with pro athlete contracts in the tennis, WNBA and golf areas, where women players are treated reasonably well.

  2. aaron dutch, December 29, 2016 at 4 p.m.

    Its sad to see them cave, the team is going to be shell of itself in another 24 months. Once all the sr. players realize that Solo was the example and they are next then off to europe they go, it is 10x better for them, i.e. they start getting good (not great) $$ and play better (year round -comp), treated like pro's, can live a better life then swinging from chaos to chaos in the U.S. Then we will have our little college team back while we try to mint a few more stars using 1990's/2000's branding that doesnt work anymore(SI covers, guest shows, ads, etc..). U.S. women are not doing well we are losing al the U brackets and only our senior team is getting to the finals sometimes. But everything is AOK!

  3. Bob Ashpole, December 29, 2016 at 4:51 p.m.

    "No women's games have been scheduled for 2017...." While the women were expected to play in March, USSF is apparently taking a "scorched earth" approach to negotiations and scheduled only men's games in 2017. Not even women's youth matches are scheduled. In labor relations that is the equivalent of threatening to close the plant and send the jobs overseas. Sad. Ironically it makes Solo's suspension rather meaningless.

  4. Bob Ashpole, December 29, 2016 at 5:09 p.m.

    Just so its clear, the tournament is an expected $2.4 million event. USSF's failure to schedule and advertise the event in advance, will cut into revenues even if the event goes forward in March 2017 as per the USSF commitment made earlier this year. An interesting question comes to mind. Is USSF planning to defend the pay discrimination case by eliminating the USWNT's revenue stream?

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  6. John Schubert, December 30, 2016 at 10:45 a.m.

    The inequities that the USWNT suffer in pay is just one more example of how women employees are considered less valuable than men. The USWNT has been far more successful than the USMNT and yet are treated with an incredible lack of respect. USSF tried to eliminate the most vocal critic by suspending Hope Solo in one of its more shameful acts. I support women soccer in this country much more than I will ever support USSF.

  7. aaron dutch, December 30, 2016 at 7:34 p.m.

    Not having matches scheduled or maximizing the revenue should be enough to fire the board of USSF . I will be in LA in 2 weeks at the NSCAA convention and ask them in person. They are a joke its really sad in the US when it comes to our football, our leagues are a wreak, or national programs are a wreak and Nero is playing the fiddle smiling

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