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USFL Players Unionizing with United Steelworkers

Four weeks into the USFL‘s inaugural season, its players are unionizing.

360 players are reported to be forming a union and establishing an affiliation with the United Steelworkers in an effort to bargain for greater benefits. The paperwork was filed on May 2.

Three months ago the president of the United Football Players’ Association, Kenneth Farrow, forged a partnership with the United Steelworkers, one of the most powerful unions in the United States. In doing so, Farrow began laying ground work to represent other players from various gridiron leagues who are not receiving adequate support from their employers. Now, he and the United Steelworkers are assisting USFL players in unionizing.

In a statement provided by the former NFL, AAF and XFL running back, he laid out his vision for this collaboration moving forward.

Our hope and intent is to create a work environment so that these leagues – historically short-lived – can survive and strive. Assuring players are dealt with transparently, respectfully and professionally is the means to that end. We are optimistic.

Kenneth Farrow

UFPA Vice Chairman Nick Temple, a former CFL, AAF and XFL player, went on to echo these sentiments:

As leagues pop up & focus becomes on product and league marketing, often everyday player needs are ignored. These are professional football players performing on live TV each week and deserve to be treated as such. We’re here to make sure that happens.

Nick Temple

Currently, player salaries stand at $45,000 during the season if they are retained on the active roster and $15,000 for being on the practice squad. Hotel rooms were initially charged at $150 per night at the players’ expense. After initial reporting and public pressure, the league reduced the expenses to halve the cost at $75. This still may be grounds for this union’s formation as players could seek higher wages and fully funded hotel accommodations provided by the USFL and Fox. 

With USFL roster sizes at 38 active personnel and players constantly being shifted to the practice squad or being cut altogether, this movement potentially provides a step towards player stability in the event of an injury or unforeseen circumstance. There is also the matter of the defacto two-year contracts players signed that prevent them from jumping to other non-NFL leagues in 2022 and 2023.

How much this movement affects players’ power during the current USFL season remains to be seen. Ultimately, the league and Fox will have to contest with the new union if it plans to retain players in the future.

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