The board of the Professional Soccer Referees Association (PSRA), which represents full- and part-time referees, assistant referees and fourth officials working games in MLS, the NWSL and USL,
received authorization from its members to strike.
Members voted "overwhelmingly" to authorize a strike in response to what the association termed were PRO's unfair labor practices and unlawful
bargaining stance. PRO is the organization that is in charge of managing referees in U.S. pro leagues.
The move comes as the parties seek to reach an agreement on a new collective
bargaining agreement. In 2014, PSRA and PRO agreed on a collective bargaining agreement but it only came after two weeks of replacement referees working MLS games. That agreement expires on Jan.
The union filed Unfair Labor Practice charges against PRO in September for cancelling scheduled meetings and failing to respond to proposals in a bargaining process that began
in January. As unfair labor practice strikers, the referees couldn't generally be fired or permanently replaced.
"PSRA expected nothing less than 'fair play' from a refereeing company,"
it said in a statement. "Unfortunately, this did not occur.”
PRO's general manager is former English referee Howard Webb
, who came to the United States to manage the launch
of the VAR program.
“PRO’s General Manager, Howard Webb, should not shoulder all the blame for PRO’s delay tactics,” the statement said. “It is PSRA’s
opinion that Mr. Webb, despite being PRO General Manager, does not control these negotiations on behalf of PRO. If he did, PSRA is confident the parties may have already reached agreement. PSRA is of
the opinion that the PRO Board, which has yet to appear at the bargaining table, and PRO’s attorneys are controlling negotiations on behalf of PRO.”
The PRO board includes
executives from MLS and U.S. Soccer.