By ANNE M. PETERSON, AP Sports Writer
The World Cup champion women’s soccer team has a new labor contract, settling a dispute in which the players sought equitable wages to their male counterparts.
The agreement with the U.S. Soccer Federation runs through 2021, meaning the players will be under contract through the 2019 World Cup in France and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The women will receive raises in base pay and bonuses as well as better provisions for travel and accommodations.
“We are proud of the hard work and commitment to thoughtful dialogue reflected through this process, and look forward to strengthening our partnership moving forward,” U.S. Soccer and the players’ association said in a joint statement Wednesday.
The deal comes as the national team is preparing to play an exhibition match against Russia on Thursday in Frisco, Texas. The team faces Russia again on Sunday in Houston.
The agreement was ratified by the players and the federation’s board Tuesday. The team had been playing under a memorandum of understanding that expired Dec. 31.
It also comes before the start of the National Women’s Soccer League season on April 15. U.S. Soccer pays the wages of the national team players who are allocated across the domestic league, and the terms of those salaries are outlined in the collective bargaining agreement.
“I’m proud of the tireless work that the players and our bargaining team put in to promote the game and ensure a bright future for American players,” player representative Meghan Klingenberg said in a statement. “We are excited to further strengthen the USWNTPA through our new revenue generating opportunities and abilities.”
A group of players drew attention to the fight for a better contract a year ago when they filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that alleged wage discrimination by the federation. The women maintained that players for the men’s national team earned far more than they did in many cases despite comparable work.
Talks had stalled late last year when the players split with the union’s executive director. They picked up again over the last two months after U.S. Women’s National Team Players Association brought in a new executive director and legal representation. Klingenberg, Becky Sauerbrunn and Christen Press were elected player representatives at the team’s January training camp.
The memorandum of understanding between U.S. Soccer and USWNTPA was struck in March 2013. Early last year U.S. Soccer took the players’ association to court to clarify that the CBA ran through 2016 after the union maintained that players could strike.
A federal judge ruled in June that the team remained bound by a no-strike provision from its 2005-12 collective bargaining agreement, heading off any labor action that could have affected last Olympics in Brazil.
The USSF has maintained that much of the pay disparity between the men’s and women’s teams resulted from separate labor agreements. The women’s team had set up its compensation structure, which included a guaranteed salary rather than a pay-for-play model like the men, in the last contract.
There has been no decision issued in the EEOC complaint, which was brought by Sauerbrunn, Hope Solo, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd. All five were on the team that won the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada.
“While I think there is still much progress to be made for us and for women more broadly, I think the WNTPA should be very proud of this deal and feel empowered moving forward,” Rapinoe said.
The contract announcement follows an agreement between USA Hockey and its women’s national team for better compensation following a threat by players to boycott the world championships.
The Irish women’s national soccer team also said Tuesday it could skip an upcoming international match because of a labor dispute. The players, many of them amateurs, say they aren’t compensated for time off from their daily jobs. They say they don’t even have their own team apparel, but share it with Ireland’s youth teams.
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