On December 31, the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team and U.S. Soccer expired. The women’s team has been fighting for pay equal to that of the Men’s National Soccer Team. Hope Solo, the embattled Olympic champion and former goalie for the U.S. women’s team, shared her thoughts on the CBA in a recent op-ed for GOOD Sports:
In the past, U.S. Soccer has literally said to us, ‘This is the budget that we’re willing to spend on the women’s team for the next four years. Within that budget, within that money that’s allotted to the women’s team, we will let you guys tell us how you want to allocate it.’ That’s not negotiating.
[…] We have the numbers, we bring in the revenue, we have the fan base. It’s just so maddening to think that this is where we are in this day in age. We’re fighting tooth and nail just for equality. Quite frankly, based on our performance, we should be getting paid more than the men, but we’re not even pushing for that, we’re pushing for equal pay.
The women’s team is going up against a powerful adversary in U.S. Soccer. Solo knows it, and says the players will have to put their own financial security on the line if they want to win the fight for equal pay:
U.S. soccer has great attorneys, they have a lot of money, and they [are] our employer…Federation President Sunil Gulati and U.S. Soccer are putting pressure on the players. I know that’s happening. I’ve seen many different CBA negotiations during my time on the team, and the federation’s approach has not changed one bit. Their strategy is to instill fear in the players—to divide and conquer us.
[…] If there’s no new CBA and the players decide to strike, there will be pressure on both sides. The federation will have to come to the table with a proper agreement, one that hopefully has a guiding principle of equality. The players are going to feel the pressure of not getting paid, not playing games, losing health insurance. Right now is a pivotal, pivotal time in continuing to keep the momentum moving forward. We have so much support around the world. Now is the time to not back down.
Of course, women’s fight for equal pay isn’t limited to the U.S. Women’s National Team. In a recent report the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) found that a significant majority of low-wage workers in the United States are women. Via Christian Science Monitor:
Women in these jobs face many obstacles, such as low wages, few benefits, irregular hours, and little opportunity for advancement. “In the next decade, low-wage women’s jobs will increase at one and a half times the rate of all other jobs,” the study noted. “Even more women will be faced with the need to take jobs that undervalue their education and skills, undercompensate their contributions, and exact heavy physical and emotional costs.”
[…] The report analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau and projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics from 2014 to 2024, and found that of the 23.5 million people working in these 22 jobs, 81 percent were women.
This trend was particularly pronounced among minority women, many of whom live in poverty, according to CSM:
The study highlighted that among women working in low-wage women’s jobs, a disproportionate number of women of color were represented, as were foreign-born women. One-third of all women working in low-wage women’s jobs were mothers, and 15 percent were single mothers. Barriers such as language, education, lack of child care options, and documentation prevented job advancement and frequently led to labor abuse due to a lack of worker options.
The impact of working in low-wage women’s jobs is that 8.2 million women live at or near the poverty line…Much of low-wage women’s work is part-time, lacks benefits, offers little to no sick leave, and employs unpredictable and irregular hours.
While the U.S. women’s soccer team certainly isn’t living in poverty, the spirit of their struggle for equal pay applies. “True equality is not going to be given,” Solo says. “We have to take it and stand fully for what we’ve earned.”