The National Women's Soccer League Players Association (NWSLPA) announced on Thursday that it has become an affiliate of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO).
In becoming the AFL-CIO's 57th affiliate, the NWSLPA is aiming to leverage the parent union's organizing and training programs for all of its members, including the Women's Global Leadership Program. It also hopes to make use of the experience of other sports unions. The NFL Players Association is also an AFL-CIO affiliate.
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"I think first of all, [becoming an affiliate] sends a message that we're workers just like anyone else," NWSLPA executive director Meghann Burke told ESPN via telephone. "We see ourselves as no better and no different.
"I don't think it's any secret that we've been mentored by [other players unions]. We've certainly been able to learn from lessons of the past and what other PAs have been through. But we also, by affiliating with AFL-CIO, can learn from the centuries long struggle for workers' rights and benefit from their wealth of resources, training and relationships."
The NWSLPA, which represents 200 players, is currently engaged in talks with the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) to craft the first Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the two sides. Through its #NoMoreSideHustles campaign, the NWSLPA is seeking significant increases in the minimum player salary, which is currently $22,000 per year, and often requires players to have second jobs. The NWSLPA is also pushing for improved working conditions, as well as free agency.
"We feel that autonomy over a player's career is no different than the autonomy that other workers have over their rights, and that's what we're fighting for in this contract," said Burke.
In a sign of the growing relationship between the NWSLPA and the AFL-CIO, last Tuesday players from the NWSL's Portland Thorns joined striking Nabisco workers from the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union on the picket line.
"We are thrilled to welcome these dedicated players to the federation," said AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler in a statement. "We look forward to working alongside the athletes in their fight for fair pay and dignity on the job. They've shown that their fights as workers on the soccer field are the same fights as workers from all walks of life have in jobs across this country: the need for safe workplaces, fair pay and to be treated with respect. We know the power of collective voice, and that we win when we stand together."