Batterman cites some progress; wants new CBA to avoid lockout

NFL outside labor counsel Bob Batterman (right) discussed the status of negotiations for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement with Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio this morning on The Dan Patrick Show.

“We started to make some incremental progress in some of the collateral areas, areas important to the deal but not the core issues. It is progress,” Batterman said of this past Monday’s negotiating session with the union. “We could certainly get a deal done before the collective bargaining agreement expires on March 4.”

Batterman, who has been involved in hundreds of successful labor negotiations that did not include work stoppages, also explained the difference between a strike (which the NFL Players Association conducted twice in the 1980s) and a lockout, and his hope for an agreement that will avoid a work stoppage.

“The difference between a strike and a lockout is simply a question of who is pulling the trigger,” Batterman said. “It is the same economic weapon. When a union wants more than what they have in the expiring collective bargaining agreement, it is the threat of a strike that might get it for them.  When an employer needs concessions and wants to get back something he has already given away, it is the threat of a lockout which enables him to potentially get it back if an agreement cannot be reached.

“If you are going to go into a strike or lockout, you want representatives on each side who are going to help you do it properly and who number one: know how to negotiate; and number two: know how to do it legally. That’s what I am here for on the NFL side: to make sure it is done properly, hopefully, to avoid it and hopefully, to help them get a deal done so that no lockout is necessary.”

Following is a transcript from the interview:

 

NFL OUTSIDE LABOR COUNSEL BOB BATTERMAN

with MIKE FLORIO on the DAN PATRICK SHOW

Friday, November 26, 2010

Mike Florio:  (Batterman) keeps a really low profile but he has a very important role in the ongoing labor discussions between the National Football League and the NFL Players Association. 

Let me just do a little background here:   Bob Batterman is a guy who does not work for the National Football League.  He is with a separate outside law firm but was hired by the NFL to work specifically on the challenge of working out a new labor agreement with the players union.

On progress since his statement in May that the NFL and NFLPA were far from reaching an agreement:

Bob Batterman:  We started to make some incremental progress in some of the collateral areas, areas important to the deal but not the core issues.  It is progress.  I won’t deny that.

On progress on specific issues:

BB:  We’ve been having some constructive conversations with regard to the 18-2 schedule issue.  What we are dealing with is the recognition on both sides, regardless of 18-2 and even at 16-4, the league would like to do anything it can to improve health and safety issues of the players.  It is coming up in the context of shifting from 16-4 to 18-2.

The players are focused on less offseason and preseason contact and safer conditions from their perception.  We want to do what we can.  We are working on that.  We are exploring that.

As we close the gap on some of those issues, it will make it easier, hopefully, to reach an agreement on the schedule, which by the way the league has had the right for a generation in their collective bargaining agreement to make a change and to increase the number of games.  We are not increasing.  We are shifting from preseason to regular season.

Hopefully, we will get that done.

On the NFL and NFLPA meeting on Monday:

BB:  It was productive in the sense that we had [football] people on both sides of the table who knew what they were talking about unlike me – football people on both sides of the table, players and executives.  We were talking about the nuts and bolts of what is required in terms of player contact, practice, how much time and how much rest and the size of the roster.

The more you talk about it, the greater likelihood there will be an agreement.  It was productive in that sense.  Did we reach an agreement? No, we did not.

On having to agree on the structure of an enhanced season before discussing finances:

BB:  I don’t think there is a master plan of agreeing to any particular item first or second or last.  These things tend to come together as a package.  Nothing is agreed upon until everything is agreed upon as a legal matter and as a contractual matter.  As a bargaining matter, everybody is going to want to protect a little bargaining leverage by keeping the balls in the air.

You can recognize that progress is being made when it is being made.  You don’t have to reach that bottom line agreement.

On progress regarding the division of revenue:

BB:  Very little.  The perceptions are very different.  We haven’t been spending the time, unfortunately, to deal with it.

On not spending time on revenue division:

BB:  This may not be my client’s perception but my perception is that complex economic issues only get resolved by rolling up your sleeves and spending a lot of time.  The head of the players union, De[Maurice Smith] who is a very sophisticated guy and a very enjoyable person to talk to, comes to collective bargaining with a very different approach.  He believes in walking the halls of Congress and holding press conferences and going around soliciting decertification petitions or cards from the players.

I believe in negotiation by sitting across the table hour after hour and getting it done.  It is like one hand clapping.  You can’t negotiate a deal until you sit down to negotiate a deal.

On the NFL asking the NFLPA to schedule an extended period of time to negotiate:

BB:  No, it wouldn’t be fair to say that.  We have not proposed that.  You can’t artificially create that intensity.  You have to do a lot of preliminary work and then everybody on both sides will recognize when the foundation will be made where you can go lock yourself in a hotel some place and bargain for days on end.  We’re not there yet.

On when the intensity of negotiations will naturally arise:

BB:  One could argue that the intensity could arise in the context of the end of this calendar year because the further we go into 2011 the more the opportunity costs and the more the loss of potential revenues to the league, which in today’s collective bargaining agreement 60 percent of total revenue goes to the players.  When we lose sponsorship money for example, 60 cents out of every dollar that is lost is lost for the players.  As we go further, we are going to lose more and more of those opportunities.

On aiming to have an agreement by January:

BB:  I would like the deal done before Christmas.  I would have liked to have had a deal done before Thanksgiving.

On the potential to have an agreement by Christmas:

BB:  By Christmas is unrealistic.

On a realistic timeline to agree to terms:

BB:  We could certainly get a deal done before the collective bargaining agreement expires on March 4.

On the perception that his involvement signifies a lockout:

BB:  I’m smiling because this has been a mantra coming out of the union for a couple of years.  The difference between a strike and a lockout is simply a question of who is pulling the trigger.  It is the same economic weapon.

When a union wants more than what they have in the expiring collective bargaining agreement, it is the threat of a strike that might get it for them.  When an employer needs concessions and wants to get back something he has already given away, it is the threat of a lockout which enables him to potentially get it back if an agreement cannot be reached.

If you are going to go into a strike or lockout, you want representatives on each side who are going to help you do it properly and who number one: know how to negotiate; and number two: know how to do it legally. 

That’s what I am here for on the NFL side: to make sure it is done properly, hopefully, to avoid it and hopefully, to help them get a deal done so that no lockout is necessary.

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