Labor board doesn't have timetable on NFL's claim vs. union

The National Labor Relations Board said Tuesday that it doesn't have a firm timetable for investigating the NFL's claim that the NFL Players Association hasn't collectively bargained in good faith.

The NFL filed its claim Monday. The current collective bargaining agreement expires March 3, and the sides have been discussing a new deal for roughly 18 months.

Nancy Cleeland, director of public affairs for the National Labor Relations Board, explained the process for investigating a claim like the NFL's and said she doesn't know how long the process will take.

The NLRB will thoroughly investigate the matter -- one labor source said the process in general isn't particularly speedy and tends to be time-consuming and exhaustive -- beginning with regional field staff and/or staff attorneys interviewing members of both negotiating parties, pouring over records of each session, what was proposed and whether or not parties showed up on time. They will try to determine if the NFLPA has in fact been "surface bargaining," Cleeland said, in essence putting forth minimal offers with the intent of eventually suing the league over its antitrust status in the event of a lockout or an impasse.

The union has flatly denied that charge.

"We will be trying to figure out if they have been 'surface bargaining,' and quite frankly, that's tricky to determine," Cleeland said. "But we do get that charge quite a bit."

The NFL's filing stated that, as in the past, the NFLPA's threatened "disclaimer of interest" as the representative of the players, together with the now-familiar antitrust litigation that is expected to follow, "is a ploy and an unlawful subversion of the collective bargaining process, there being no evidence whatsoever of any (let alone widespread) disaffection with the union by its members. It is both the reason for and proof of the NFLPA's failure to approach these negotiations with a sincere desire to reach a new agreement at the bargaining table as opposed to the courthouse. The NFLPA's statements and conduct over the course of the last 20 months plainly establish that it does not intend to engage in good faith collective bargaining with the NFL after the CBA expires or otherwise meet its obligations under Section 8(d) of the Act, and that it instead will pursue its goals on behalf of the players by pretending to disclaim interest as their Section 9(a) representative and then sue the NFL under the antitrust laws. The union's strategy amounts to an unlawful anticipatory refusal to bargain."

Cleeland said that if the NLRB finds merit to the league's claims, it would file a charge against the NFLPA, and a hearing then would be held on the matter.

Editor's note: This story was modified to clarify the National Labor Relations Board's process as it pertains to the NFL's claim against the NFLPA.

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