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AFL-CIO Head Tries to Meddle in NFL Labor Dispute; Update: NFL Says 'No Thanks

AFL-CIO Head Tries to Meddle in NFL Labor Dispute; Update: NFL Says 'No Thanks

"We stand ready to assist in reaching a collectively-bargained solution."

INDIANAPOLIS (The Blaze/AP) -- The president of the AFL-CIO is ready to play mediator in the NFL's labor dispute.

In a letter obtained Thursday by The Associated Press, AFL-CIO President RichardTrumka offered to sit down with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith and determine the parameters for a new collective bargaining agreement.

"I would like to invite you both to meet with me to discuss how an agreement might be reached," the letter reads. "I believe such a meeting would be an immediate and important step toward saving football for the 2011 season and avoiding the significant job losses that will occur if owners lock out the players and cancel games."

The current CBA does not expire until March, and Smith contends league owners are preparing to lock out the players before the start of next season.

The two sides held their most recent bargaining session earlier this week in Washington.

Neither league officials nor players association representatives responded immediately to e-mailed requests for comment from the AP regarding Trumka's letter, which went to NFL owners, mayors of NFL cities and governors of states that have NFL teams.

It's not the first time the AFL-CIO, a labor union federation, has jumped into the NFL's game.

Two weeks ago, Trumka sent a letter to all 32 team owners, warning that a lockout could cost thousands of Americans their jobs and cities more than $140 million in revenue.

Trumka made some familiar requests in the second letter, too.

He asked Goodell to provide profit or loss statements and operating expenses of NFL teams in addition to other financial details that would justify a reduction in benefits to the players or the necessity for a lockout. The NFLPA has been seeking team financial statements for months.

But Trumka also asked Smith to provide details about player salaries, pensions and health care benefits, saying that it was essential that all of the information be available for a "fair and productive" meeting.

"I believe that a productive meeting and a production of the relevant financial information will be useful in helping to avoid a work stoppage that would impact thousands of jobs nationwide," Trumka wrote in the Sept. 27 letter. "Now is the time for the NFL and the NFL Players Association to demonstrate their commitment to reaching a fair settlement."

Smith has continued to insist the league is headed toward a lockout, in part because the television networks will continue to pay the owners next season regardless of whether the games are played.

Goodell points out that eventually owners will have to pay that money back if the games are canceled.

In Indianapolis, which is scheduled to host its first Super Bowl after the 2011 season, local organizers have said league officials are urging them to be ready for the game to be played, as scheduled, on Feb. 5, 2012.

The biggest point of contention, of course, is money.

Players currently receive 59.6 percent of designated NFL revenues, a number agreed to in 2006. The owners say that's too much, arguing they have huge debts from building stadiums and starting up the NFL Network and other ventures, making it impossible to be profitable.

But money isn't the only issue.

On Tuesday, the owners gave union executives their first formal proposal for a new 18-game regular season.

One day earlier, Colts President Bill Polian said the expanded season was a "fait accompli." He clarified those remarks Wednesday by telling ESPN Radio: "I was very imprecise. I said that the 18-game season was a fait accompli and ... it isn't. It is subject to lengthy discussion in detail with the players' association."

All the AFL-CIO claims it wants to do is help.

"Millions of our hard-working members love professional football, and a great many of them also rely upon the game for their economic health," Trumka wrote. "We stand ready to assist in reaching a collectively-bargained solution."

But it's hard to believe that Trumka could be an unbiased voice. He is a staunch union advocate who has vilified those with large amounts of money -- a category that includes NFL team owners -- and has painted businesses as greedy and dishonest.

For instance, Trumka recently called for "popular control over the private corporations," said that all businesses "want to do is scrape every ounce of flesh from our hides — for their profit,” and boasted about driving health care legislation "down [Republicans'] throats."

Politico's Ben Smith notes that the NFL Players Assocation is an AFL-CIO affiliate, which could compromise any claims of neutrality and ultimately doom Trumka's plan.

In response to Trumka's first letter, the NFL responded by asking him to encourage the NFLPA to commit to serious negotiations:

"We share the interest of the AFL-CIO in achieving a negotiated settlement that is fair to fans, clubs, and players, who have received more than $20 billion in salaries and benefits under the current CBA, and who have experienced steady growth in compensation despite the worst economic downturn in our lifetimes," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said.

"We pledge to the AFL-CIO the firm commitment of the NFL clubs to reach a fair settlement that is good for everyone, especially fans. Nobody knows better than the AFL-CIO that it takes two parties to reach a labor agreement, and we call on the AFL-CIO to encourage the NFLPA to make the same commitment to collective bargaining that NFL owners have made."

The Associated Press contributed to this report. (Editor's note: this distinction was not made in the original posting of this story.)


INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The NFL has a problem with the head of the AFL-CIO's offer to mediate the league's labor talks.

In a letter obtained Thursday by the Associated Press, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka offered to sit down with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith to work on the parameters for a new collective bargaining agreement.

Smith is a member of the executive council of the AFL-CIO, a labor union federation.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello wrote in an e-mail to the AP: "No one would suggest that the owner of an NFL club or a member of its board could serve as an effective, neutral mediator. The same is true of the leader of the AFL-CIO."

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