Herriman • Everton Luiz sat in his car in the parking lot of Real Salt Lake’s practice facility. Moments later, coach Freddy Juarez came over to talk. After a brief exchange, Luiz drove off.
RSL had a practice scheduled Monday, but all indications were it didn’t happen. Juarez declined comment, but a team athletic trainer said his understanding was RSL was joining the rest of the league in a refusal to attend scheduled practices in response to negotiations between the league and the players union
After the MLS Players Association announced it had approved economic concessions for this season, a one-year extension of the collective bargaining agreement, and the agreement to play a summer tournament in Orlando, multiple reports indicated the league responded by saying it had put forth its best offer and threatening a lockout if its players did not agree.
A final vote by the MLSPA that was originally expected Tuesday has reportedly been moved to Wednesday as the league makes some revisions to its final offer. But players across the league showed their distaste for the threat by refusing to show up for workouts Monday. Training sessions, which were recently approved for small groups of players after weeks of individual sessions, are still considered voluntary.
The refusal to train is the latest development in a contract saga that began cordially. But it appears to have soured since the COVID-19 pandemic caused the MLS season to be suspended after just two weeks of play.
The league and players union tentatively agreed to terms in February, but the agreement was never ratified. As games were postponed and revenues fell, the league has tried to negotiate salary reductions for its players to soften the blow. First it was reported that the reductions would amount to 50%, then 20%, then 10%.
ESPN reports the union’s latest proposal calls for a 7.5% salary reduction, but the league wants 8.75%.
Included in the talks have been a return-to-play plan, which would have every team play a tournament at the ESPN complex in Orlando. But players expressed doubts. Further talks seemed to have assuaged the union’s concerns.
Some of the issues still yet to be resolved are how the league won’t activate a clause, per ESPN, which allows either side to back out of the agreement in the event of an unforeseen event, such as a global pandemic. MLS wants to invoke it if attendance falls 25% or more in five markets in 2021.
Wednesday’s vote now looms.