Allow me to play Unfrozen Caveman Sportswriter for a moment when I ask, what purpose did the MLS Players Union have in mind when it decided not to strike last night? Of all the things I thought the union was going to have in its press release, that was at the bottom of my list, below the scenario I envisioned where, attached to the release, was a picture of Taylor Twellman crapping on Phil Anschutz’s headshot.
I even thought that perhaps events had overtaken the strike threat and that some quiet backchannel discussions were going to lead to an overnight agreement. But that didn’t happen either.
So now, I still don’t really understand what the union is thinking by not striking. The only positive to the move is the effect of pushing the bad PR of striking further down the road. That’s fine I guess, but if you’re serious about a strike, wouldn’t you have been prepared for that PR hit last night? The negatives, or at least the potential negatives for the union are much more obvious.
Not striking makes the union look weak, dumb and/or not unified. By walking right up to the precipice and then stepping back, it leads me to think that for some reason, the union never actually intended to strike and that it was all just posturing. Maybe it was all an empty threat. If so, my god, they’ve been played worse than the Indians in that whole Manhattan for some beads trade. If that’s the case, the owners should have the San Diego Chicken bring the union the reiteration of their final offer, just to slam the message home.
It’s also possible that the leaders of the union have overestimated the willingness of its rank and file to actually walkout. If MLSPU doesn’t think it has the votes to sustain a strike ballot, then it has brutally misplayed its hand. If this is the case, then the union should just quietly fire Foose, accept a deal that isn’t too long and regroup to fight another day.
Finally, let me ask you folks what you think. I am not an expert in labor negotiations. I’ve never worked in a union environment, nor have I been on any side of a CBA negotiation. I tend to think of all this through my Washington partisan zero-sum prism, which is that if one side isn’t winning something, that means it’s losing something. That’s why if there was a “win” here by the players by not striking, I think that’s why I am not figuring out what it is.
Finally, I think that I, and many others, have been guilty of making it sound like a labor stoppage implictly means the loss of a season. I think it’s easy to make analogies to the MLB strike and NHL lockout because those are still so raw in people’s memories, but even if the union does “sack up” and strike, that doesn’t guarantee the loss of the 2010 MLS season.