Right Field

NBA Talks Break Off, Players Anticipate NLRB Ruling

After three intense days of federally mediated negotiation between NBA player representatives and ownership, talks broke off with no further sessions sheduled. As the lockout has dragged on, talks being broken off like this has usually meant a week or more without progress.

In the wake of talks disintigrating yet again, Lester Munson reports that the players union is anticipating a decision from the NLRB regarding their complaints of unfair labor practices by owners.

With board members appointed by President Obama in control, the NLRB has been leaning toward unions in most disputes. If the board agrees with the players that the owners have been guilty of bad faith in their bargaining and their lockout, the board would ask a federal judge for an injunction that would stop the lockout.

How important is the NLRB action? In most labor disputes, the management side of the dispute (the owners) does not participate in early NLRB skirmishing. In the NBA players’ case, however, the owners have submitted considerable evidence to the NLRB in an effort to postpone an action that could destroy their lockout.

The NLRB’s increased friendliness to unions under President Obama means that the players are hopeful that they’ll get a favorable ruling. Effectively, the NLRB does have the power to end the NBA lockout if it sides with the players.

Halted negotiations and an apparent stalemate on both sides seems to suggest that the players are confident that the NLRB will come down on their side. It’s a gamble. And it could just be a ploy by the players to try to force the owners’ hand at the bargaining table, but if the NLRB dismisses players’ complaints, both sides might become more entrenched. It was disappointing in the first place that the players turned to the politicized NLRB to try to get a favorable ruling, and the imminent ruling doesn’t seem like it’ll advance the talks, no matter which way it goes. Because even if the lockout is forcibly ended, a new collective bargaining agreement is still needed.