The Corner


Breaking: Contracts Have Consequences

U.S. women’s national soccer team player Megan Rapinoe holds the FIFA Women’s World Cup trophy as the team arrives at Newark International Airport in Newark, N.J., July 8, 2019. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

It brings me great sorrow to report that wealthy women who are paid large sums of money to play a game are unhappy with the pay structure for which their union collectively bargained and to which they themselves voluntarily agreed. The foxes have holes, and the birds the air nests; but members of the U.S. Women’s Soccer team are only guaranteed a $100,000 salary to play a game (before bonuses, of course). Let it never be said that ours is a country without tragedy.

The process by which two parties settle a compensation dispute through arbitration and collective bargaining (rather than publicly play-acting as Freedom Riders and disrespecting the country on foreign soil) — “the right way to do it,” if you prefer — has already proven an effective means of improving team pay, if raising team pay is indeed the point.

For a comparable number of “friendlies,” the women’s team compensation leapt from 38 percent to 89 percent of their male counterparts’ with the enactment of the 2017 collective-bargaining agreement, according to the Washington Post. These numbers, which reflect the improvements possible from a simple negation process, are misleading in terms of the disparity between the men and women — the women’s salaries and bonuses are not structured the same as the men’s team, which receives higher bonuses than the women’s team but does not receive a guaranteed salary.

But even this evades the actual point: If the women’s team is unhappy with this arrangement, it is not the fault of the United States, the American flag, Donald Trump, or some distant cabal of sexist white men scheming to stick their thumbs in the face of Megan Rapinoe. It is the fault of both the women’s union representatives and the women themselves for signing an agreement that they were unhappy with. If they didn’t like the terms of the agreement reached by the collective bargaining process, the women’s team was well within its right not to sign it. But, alas, they did sign it. Doesn’t that matter?

Perhaps the team’s union can, at the next opportunity, negotiate a more favorable arrangement for the team, sparing the country the public histrionics and political demonstrations of team members. Unless the public histrionics and political demonstrations are themselves the point. Which is certainly possible.

Rachel Maddow spoke for no one when she asked what, in the meantime, Americans “can do to support that fight” for “equal pay.” Rapinoe suggested, among other things, that fans might buy players’ jerseys.

Is there a more noble cause for which a Chinese child in a Nike sweatshop can labor?

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