Jeff Pash on negotiations: “We have continuously moved toward their position in an effort to reach an agreement”

NFL executive vice president Jeff Pash said in an op-ed piece in today’s Chicago Tribune that the NFL continuously moved toward the players’ union’s position and made a proposal last month that could have been the foundation for a future of prosperity for both players and teams.

“When the NFL Players Association walked away from the bargaining table and abandoned an open and transparent negotiation process, it launched the game into a risky and uncertain legal morass,” Pash wrote.

“Collective bargaining is about give and take,” he continued. “Candidly, there can be heated discussions and maddening fits and starts, and it takes a lot of time and hard work. There is nothing glamorous about it.”

“[The March 11] proposal could be the groundwork for a future of prosperity for the teams and players alike, for improvements in the game and for great competitive play for our fans,” Pash added. “We have been negotiating with the union for nearly two years. Over that period of time, we have continuously moved toward their position in an effort to reach an agreement. Our differences must ultimately be settled by both sides. All a court case can do is delay and confuse the process. This should be settled in the bargaining room, not the courtroom.”

Following is the complete op-ed in today’s Chicago Tribune.

NFL DISPUTE: COME BACK PLAYERS UNION

By Jeff Pash

Football took a hard hit last month. Sadly, fans were on the receiving end.

Throughout NFL’s storied history, exciting action on the field has always been its hallmark. No one individual or team has ever been bigger than the game. But when the NFL Players Association walked away from the bargaining table and abandoned an open and transparent negotiation process, it launched the game into a risky and uncertain legal morass.

Worse, it left behind a serious proposal that, by addressing the union’s concerns, went a long way toward keeping the game on the field and in millions of homes.

Collective bargaining is about give and take. Candidly, there can be heated discussions and maddening fits and starts, and it takes a lot of time and hard work. There is nothing glamorous about it. But it works — and tens of thousands of people around the country are fighting to preserve what the NFLPA so easily tossed aside.

I can say this because, as the chief labor negotiator for the NFL, I was at the bargaining table for three weeks with federal mediators in Washington, D.C.

I saw it firsthand. Here is what we offered. Make up your own mind about which side was serious about negotiating.

First, we offered to retain the current 16-game regular season schedule through at least 2012 and not to move to an 18-game regular season without the union’s agreement. Second, we offered to implement a new system for paying rookies that would have saved more than $300 million per draft class, all of it reallocated to veteran player salaries and current and retired player benefits. Third, we offered to establish a new benefit fund for retired players and to commit $82 million to that fund in the first two years alone. And fourth, we significantly improved our economic proposal.

In just the first four years of a new agreement, our proposal would likely have paid players between $19 and $20 billion, a 14 percent increase.

We know that football is physically demanding. To prove our respect for the players and address their legitimate health and safety concerns, we offered to reduce the off-season workout program by five weeks, shorten training camp, limit the number of full-contact practices and increase the number of days off for players during the season. We also proposed significant improvements in retirement and disability benefits for former players and offered current players the opportunity to retain their health insurance for life. There has been much criticism for not doing enough for those who helped to build the game. The NFLPA walked away from a proposal that would have given more than 2,000 retirees a pension increase averaging nearly 60 percent.

Facts are facts. This proposal could be the groundwork for a future of prosperity for the teams and players alike, for improvements in the game and for great competitive play for our fans. We have been negotiating with the union for nearly two years. Over that period of time, we have continuously moved toward their position in an effort to reach an agreement. Our differences must ultimately be settled by both sides. All a court case can do is delay and confuse the process. This should be settled in the bargaining room, not the courtroom.

There has been plenty of heated talk in recent weeks. What is needed to solve this labor dispute is commitment. Instead of asking the courts or Congress to solve our problems, let’s sit down like responsible adults and do it ourselves. Let’s fashion a new agreement that makes the game safer, honors the legacy of players who came before, and extends the careers and advances the lives of the men who play the game today.

Jeff Pash is the NFL’s lead labor negotiator.

Comments are closed.