Players from the United States Football League (USFL) have voted to unionize in coordination with the United Football Players Association (UFPA) and elected to partner with the United Steelworkers (USW).
USFL is an eight-team spring professional football league playing inaugural season this year. The entire 10-game regular season is being played in Birmingham, and four teams - the Birmingham Stallions, Philadelphia Stars, New Jersey Generals and New Orleans Breakers - will enter the semifinals on Saturday, June 25 at the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio.
USFL players voted to form a union on June 6 in an election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board. The vote took place in Birmingham, where the USFL headquarters is located. All 370 players were offered the chance to vote, and unionization was approved by more than a 2-to-1 ratio.
Now, those players are waiting for everything to be certified before they can create a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) where they will identify some of the changes they’d like to see.
USW International President Thomas M. Conway said that unionizing could help the players with pay, hours and working conditions.
The USW is one of the largest unions in the United States and is headquartered in Pittsburgh. The USW represents workers in the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean over a broad range of industries.
The UFPA was formed in 2020 and affiliated with the USW earlier this year. The UFPA represents players who are not represented by the National Football League Players Association.
"Like all workers, professional athletes deserve to be treated with dignity and respect on the job by their employers," UFPA Vice-President Nick Temple said. "The USW has empowered generations of workers to fight for fairness, so we are prepared to bring the top concerns of the players to the table."
Temple founded the UFPA in 2020 with Kenneth Farrow, who is currently the organization’s president. Farrow was a running back for the University of Houston and has also played in the NFL, AAF and XFL.
The UFPA is composed of football players with experience in the National Football League, Arena League of American Football, XFL, Canadian Football League and others.
Formally affiliated earlier this year, the USW and UFPA aims to improve working conditions for professional athletes in existing leagues and potential football leagues who are not covered by contracts like those in the NFL Players' Association.
Farrow said the UFPA began collecting resources in Birmingham at the beginning of the USFL season. He said both the USFL and its parent organization, Fox Sports, have been very cooperative.
“I think overall we both came to an agreement that this needs to be a cooperative partnership and guys just want a voice,” Farrow said. “… Nobody’s trying to be adversarial at all.”
Farrow said he didn’t think there was a sports league that currently doesn’t have some sort of union representation, and that USFL players will benefit from unionizing by gaining a voice to exercise some of their concerns.
"Every worker deserves the opportunity to bargain for better pay, benefits and working conditions as part of a union," Farrow said. "Players can guarantee a stronger voice in determining their own futures by bargaining as part of a collective."
1819 News reached out to the USFL for comment and did not receive a response.
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