As the 2011-2012 NFL season kicks off, its players will once again be doing so as members of the AFL-CIO. This past March the NFLPA renounced its status as a union to file individual antitrust suits against the owners in preparation for a lockout. This action could not have taken place if they remained a union. DeMaurice Smith, the NFLPA’s executive director, said in an article,
“It was the steadfast unity of our players and support from millions that allowed us to reach a fair deal for the working men who risk their health and safety to play professional football. We have a renewed sense of unity that we’re excited to bring to our reaffiliation with the AFL-CIO. As we all face tough economic times, we see what’s possible when we work together.
On July 30th, a majority of NFL players signed their union authorization cards and the NFL officially recognized the union as the players’ exclusive collective bargaining representative. The NFL and NFLPA have since negotiated a 10-year Collective Bargaining Agreement which brings football back to the 32 American cities that waited in quiet anticipation to see if their favorite players would be wearing their team’s colors on Sunday mornings. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said,
“The strength of working people is in the strength of our collective voice – and we are stronger today with the reaffiliation of the NFLPA. Just like millions of hardworking Americans, the players used their collective voice to work towards a solution. And as working people work together to create good jobs and rebuild America’s economy, we welcome the NFLPA back into America’s labor movement.”
The NFL first unionized in 1956 when Frank Gifford, Don Shula, and Norm Van Brocklin organized players in hopes of demanding that the clubs provide players with a minimum league-wide salary, per diem pay, uniforms, equipment paid for and maintained at the clubs’ expense and continued payment of their salaries while they were injured and unable to play.