They persisted: U.S. women’s soccer secures new deal after lengthy ‘Equal Play, Equal Pay’ campaign

It’s about time.

Members of the United States women’s national soccer team pose for photographers prior to a SheBelieves Cup women’s soccer match against England, Saturday, March 4, 2017, in Harrison, N.J. CREDIT: AP Photo/Julio Cortez

Just a week after the U.S. women’s national hockey team ended its world champion boycott after finally securing an equitable contract from USA Hockey, another successful women’s sports labor negotiation is on the books.

On Wednesday, U.S. Soccer announced that it had ratified a five-year collective bargaining with the U.S. women’s national team, ending a contract negotiation that’s been in overdrive for over a year, particularly since the USWNT filed a federal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charging U.S. Soccer with wage discrimination last March.

The USWNT launched an “Equal Play, Equal Pay” campaign to highlight the pay discrepancy between the women’s and men’s national teams last summer, and while this new CBA doesn’t provide exact equality, it is a significant improvement over the previous deal.

As reported by the New York Times and Sports Illustrated, some of the most important parts of the deal are:

  • A “sizable increase” in base pay for the USWNT players and bigger bonuses, which could lead to some players doubling their incomes and earning $200,000 to $300,000 per year — and even more during World Cup years.
  • Improved travel accommodations and working conditions — a category that likely includes field quality.
  • Union control over some of the USWNT licensing and marketing rights.
  • Greater support the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), with a continued commitment to pay NWSL salaries for allocated USWNT players, additional field and stadium oversight, and greater bonuses for players who don’t have a USWNT contract.
  • Per diems that are equal to the ones the men’s nation team receives.
  • More support for pregnant players who are pregnant or adopting a child.

Negotiations between the two parties got extremely ugly at times. In December of 2015, a USWNT match was cancelled after the team publicly complained about subpar, dangerous field conditions. Last February, U.S. Soccer sued the USWNT Player’s Association over the validity of their CBA, and last June, the USWNT threatened to strike at the Olympics.

The strike never manifested, and last December, the USWNT decided to change its representation. The decision immediately improved the tone of the talks, and after over 20 talks, a contract was finally secured that will take the team through the next big World Cup and Olympic Games.

“We are pleased to announce that U.S. Soccer and the U.S. Women’s National Team Players Association have ratified a new collective bargaining agreement which will continue to build the women’s program in the U.S, grow the game of soccer worldwide, and improve the professional lives of players on and off the field,” the two groups said in a joint statement on Wednesday.

“We are proud of the hard work and commitment to thoughtful dialogue reflected through this process, and look forward to strengthening our partnership moving forward.”

It’s important to note that although this CBA battle is over, the team is not withdrawing its federal EEOC complaint, which is said to be in late stages of an investigation right now.

While the women were able to forego equal pay in order to receive continued support from the federation for the NWSL, they refused to back down from their demands for equity and respect. Just as in the women’s hockey negotiations, the unity and persistence of the women on the national team was the key ingredient in achieving success. The women’s soccer team even lent their public support to the hockey team during their fight.

But one main difference between the hockey and soccer negotiations was the support the team received from its male counterparts.

While the U.S. men’s hockey team threatened to boycott its world championships if USA Hockey did not reach an agreement with the women’s team, very few members of the U.S. men’s national soccer team showed public support for the women.

In a podcast earlier this week with Sports Illustrated, USWNT captain Becky Sauerbrunn said that lack of support was disappointing, and the team hopes to repair that relationship going forward.

“I think a healing process needs to happen,” she said, as reported by Excelle Sports. “Early on [in USWNT labor talks], it was very much ‘the men make more than the women do, and they probably aren’t as successful.’ And I think that set a really bad tone. There are still bad feelings about that. I think it’s really unfortunate. Because I think if the men did support us, I think that voice, the federation would hear that. The country would hear that. So I hope there comes a point where we can get together … and talk through it.”

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated Lindsay Gibbs’s story.