The United States Soccer Federation, the United States Women’s National Team Players Association, and the United States National Soccer Team Players Association announced historic collective bargaining agreements on Wednesday which will equalize pay between men and women who play for the United States. The two contracts are slated to run through 2028 and represent the culmination of the USWNTPA’s fight for equal pay which has lasted for years.
Back in February USSF agreed to a settlement with the USWNTPA after a six year long legal battle. The two sides reached an agreement that included $22 million to the named USWNT players in the case, and USSF agreed to establish a players fund with $2 million to benefit players during their post-soccer careers and invest in charitable efforts aimed at growing the sport for women.
U.S. Soccer also included a promise to provide an equal rate of pay for both the women’s and men’s national teams that would include World Cup bonuses, but all that was contingent on the two players unions ratifying new collective bargaining agreements. Now, two months after the agreement to settle, the three sides have two new contracts for each respective players union.
For USWNT player Margaret Purce, the agreement is part of the bigger picture of worker’s rights in this country. “I think everything that goes on in the United States is pretty interconnected. You know, we are workers, and I do think that life outside of the sports lens still merges with that,” she said. “So yeah, I think that we came together as laborers. I think that we had negotiations with our employers, and I think we came out at the end of it, and everybody was really happy with the deal. So yeah, I think just to some extent, everything is pretty related.”
Purce along with USSF President Cindy Parlow Cone, USWNTPA Executive Director Becca Roux, and USWNT player Walker Zimmerman all sat down with the media to talk about the news.
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The time was right for these historic contracts
Part of the reason this happened now, at least according to Parlow Cone was simply a matter of timing. “The men were out of contract and the women were up for renewal. So, since we hadn’t finished the renewal with the men, it was an opportunity to put them on the same timeline of renegotiations — which had never happened in the past,” she said. “So, it was really our one opportunity that we’ve had to bring them together in one room to negotiate this.”
For Parlow Cone, this was the culmination of a long fight. “I am so proud. I have been in this [fight] for over 20 years, fighting for equal pay. The 99ers team has a text stream, and just the messages coming in from my teammates who started this fight, who I learned from — it’s just such a proud moment to actually be a leader in this,” she said. “To be the first to do it, and to work together with my staff at U.S. Soccer, everyone on the women’s side, and everyone on the men’s side, to really come together to do this historic agreement.”
As for the men’s side of the equation, according to Zimmerman, the cause was important enough that it dwarfed the possibility that these agreements could mean less money for them. “When we got together as a group with the men’s Players Association, certainly we saw that there was not going to be a way forward to a deal without equalization of World Cup prize money,” he said. “And we looked at the numbers between the previous CBA, the CBA that we’ve agreed to now, and recognized that, you know, sure, there was a potential chance of making less money, no doubt about it.
“But we also believe so much in the women’s team, we believe in the whole premise of equal pay. And ultimately, that was a big driving force for us — was to do something historic, do something that no other team had done before — and to really try and do this together. Difficult conversations, a lot of listening, a lot of learning. And ultimately we came to this historic CBA and we’re really proud of it.”
Benefits go beyond equal pay
While equal pay will clearly get the headlines, the benefits go far beyond just that according to Roux. “I think Cindy and her teammates have long fought for benefits. And I think this has been something that women have had to do throughout time. So, we couldn’t always just focus on compensation. We also had to negotiate with other things. And this time we were able to negotiate for equal pay and also then negotiate for some those extra benefits, ome of which are now also going to be available to men including 401k and childcare” she said. “But there was also a recognition that with women — because the club environment is still developing within the women’s football world, that there are some things that U.S. Soccer provides to our women’s national team players, and in turn also require additional work from the women. So, as the women are doing unique or additional work, they’re also receiving unique and additional benefits that include short term injury protection, or short term injury disability if you will.”
Roux also highlighted other rights that were won in the negotiations, saying, “While I do not believe you have to do any extra work to receive parental leave — there is a universe of players that will also be receiving parental leave, and it is parental meaning adoption, or if a partner has a child, or if the woman herself has the child. And then lastly, health insurance, dental, and vision insurance. And out of all of that, non-economic things including the safe work environment, data, privacy, etc.”
These CBAs can change conversations moving forward
For Parlow Cone, part of what’s so exciting about reaching these deals is that this is just the beginning of what’s possible. “I don’t know that we know the full ramifications of this,” she said. “I think our hope is that now, when others are going through this, they have something to point to and we can be a resource of how we got here and help them through the process. But, the ramifications in soccer, other sports, in society, I don’t think we’ll fully know that for 10-15 years.”
Purce added, “I think what we’ve accomplished is definitely a landmark in progress when it comes to gender equity. I think we set a new standard of value for women in the workforce. I don’t know when or how or where this will unfold and what it will trigger next exactly, but I do think it will inspire a lot and push a lot of individuals and groups to push further on this.”