NFL players defend decision to disband; say lockout causing 'irreparable' harm
By Jon Krawczynski, AP Sports Writer
MINNEAPOLIS -- NFL players are defending their decision to disband the union, saying employers cannot force workers to unionize, and dissolution is "not akin to turning off a light switch."
The players made the statements Monday in a court document filed in response to the NFL's assertion decertification was "a sham."
Lawyers for Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and six other NFL players are asking a federal judge to halt a lockout imposed by owners, saying an injunction is needed to "stop the irreparable harm being inflicted today." A hearing on the issue is scheduled for April 6 in St. Paul.
Owners locked out the players on March 11 shortly after players filed an antitrust suit and injunction request.
The players say that prior court decisions have made it clear the right of workers not to unionize is absolute. The players disclaimed their union, gave up the right to strike, to collectively bargain and to have union representation.
"The players sacrificed these labor law rights for one reason: to gain the ability to assert antitrust claims against anticompetitive restrictions imposed by defendants," lawyers for the players argued on Monday.
Last week, the NFL wrote in response to the lawsuit to ask that the lockout be kept in place, accusing the players of trying to manipulate the law with what the league deems a baseless antitrust claim. The NFL also argues that any legal decision on the lockout should wait until the National Labor Relations Board rules on an unfair labor practice charge against the now-dissolved players' union.
The "claim that it was bad faith for the NFLPA to renounce its union status is absurd," the court document said. It added that the NFLPA was re-formed as a union because of a court settlement, and that it existed as a union for nearly 20 years, "with renunciation occurring only after two years of fruitless collective bargaining."
U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson is scheduled to hear arguments on the injunction next week.