Could the USFL players be unionized?


The USFL’s players will vote on Monday, June 6 regarding whether to be represented by the United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial & Service Workers International Union. Otherwise known as the United Steelworkers or simply Steelworkers.

Late last month, the USFL sent a notice of the looming election to all voters. Secret balloting will occur at the Sheraton Birmingham Hotel from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

The USFL has encouraged all players to vote.

“The United Steelworkers are NOT currently part of the USFL,” the message from former NFL player (and former member of the NFL Players Association) Daryl Johnston explains. “The Steelworkers are an independent union — with no affiliation with the USFL — other than the fact that the Steelworkers are seeking to become your exclusive representative. . . . The United Steelworkers are NOT part of the NFL and they do NOT represent NFL players. . . . We have and always will stand on being a Players-first league. Right now, without union representation, we have the ability to negotiate directly with you and other players. We believe this direct relationship — without making the United Steelworkers your exclusive representative — benefits our players and the League. We favor continuing our direct relationship with players, without negotiating everything through the United Steelworkers.”

Sorry, but that’s just corporate BS. They don’t want to deal with the Steelworkers because the Steelworkers will force them to give something more fair and appropriate than the take-it-or-leave-it offers currently made to individual players. In an industry featuring young athletes who simply want to play football, the power inherently resides with the league. The league sets the terms, and if one player says, “No, thanks,” the next player will say, “Yes, please.” That’s the extent of the direct negotiation.

The best evidence that Johnston is simply taking a page from the time-honored, union-busting playbook is the claim that the USFL is a “Players-first” league. Baloney. The USFL is owned by Fox. Which is owned by News Corp. Which is publicly traded. Which means that the USFL necessarily is a Shareholders-first league. And it’s in the best interests of the shareholders of News Corp. for the USFL to not have to deal with a union.

Fox may not like me saying this, but it’s the truth. The USFL’s players definitely should vote to unionize. The XFL’s players, as of 2023, should unionize, too. The mere fact that the USFL really doesn’t want it now (and the inevitable reality that the XFL won’t want it later) is the ultimate proof that the players should definitely want to utilize a collective effort to get a fair share of the revenues that both leagues will generate.

Shawn Stewart is the Founder/CEO of Sports 4 America; Shawn Stewart also hosts The Shawn Stewart Sports Podcast and also Play-By-Play announcer for the Detroit Hustle of The Basketball League, you can follow him on Twitter @S4AStewart

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