Troubled Union about to receive Influx of Money from Owners

Under pressure

On Wednesday, the officials from the NBA and the NBPA sat down behind closed doors, one week removed from their last meeting, to try to work out a deal to end the current labor dispute. The meeting lasted five and a half hours. Last week it lasted six. Again, relevant details by either side as to how the talks were progressing were not revealed, however, the two sides did agree to meet again Thursday. It will be only the fifth meeting between the two sides since the lockout began on July 1, but it will be the third time in the last 10 days.

Despite seemingly good signs on the surface there is a tension growing in the union. Billy Hunter, the executive director of the NBPA, has been coming under fire, Sam Amick writes, recently from agents who are angry that he did not move to decertify the union once the lockout began, like the NFLPA did, in order to create more leverage for the players in the negotiations. However, the influence of the agents does not stop there. During the lockout, agents have been pushing for more information concerning the labor negotiations so that they can relay news to the players they represent. More information could potentially give them a leg up when a new CBA is agreed upon in the future. Information is money to the agents, in all facets.

The power and influence that the agents have held over the union might not be as strong as it once was, however. Union vice president, Maurice Evans, laid into the agents in an August meeting, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! reported Wednesday. Evans berated Bill Duffy and the prodding that the agents were doing and voiced his support for Hunter and the way in which he was handling the players agenda during the lockout.

All of this amounts to a fractured NBPA with frustration beginning to take hold on almost every level. If the union were to decertify now, as the agents had pushed for from the start, it would weaken the union’s position and be a resounding vote of no confidence for Hunter. Yet, it may be the last available option if the owners do not seriously alter their hardline stance. For the owners, all they have to do is wait for the players’ money to start to dry up.

However, more than 350 checks made out to players are currently in the mail, Chris Sheridan has learned. A whopping total of $161 million is being paid to the players.

The money represents the 8 percent of each player’s salary that was withheld from their paychecks last season under the NBA’s escrow tax system, which was put in place to ensure that the players received no more than 57 percent of basketball related income in the 2010-11 season…

In addition, the league office sent an additional $26 million in funds to the union to satisfy its obligation to pay out 57 percent of BRI. (The union is hanging onto that $26 million until a vote is held to determine how it should be distributed).

That means a total of $187 million is going from the owners’ wallets into the players’ wallets at a time when the owners are counting on the prospect of missed paychecks to help force the union to make additional givebacks in collective bargaining talks…

So much for the owners hoping that the players would start panicking once they missed their first paychecks, which are scheduled to arrive on November 15. It looks like the players have a nice little rainy-day fund headed their way. Sheridan also writes that many of the players with long-term contracts, about 25 percent of them, are paid on a 12-month schedule. The owners are still playing some of the players despite of the lockout. This can only serve to undermine the owners’ and league’s staunch labor positions at the bargaining table.

Clearly, both sides have had their armor pierced. The union is fractured and the owners are paying the players millions not to work. Hopefully, this is a stepping stone for advancing the talks. Two meetings in two days appears to have each side headed in the right direction but with no information becoming public about the meetings it is impossible to say. The NBA and NBPA must find a common ground. If they do not then everyone loses.

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