The Fight for Equal Pay, More Important Now than Ever Before

By | April 22, 2016

On March 30th, Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn and Hope Solo, filed a federal complaint by means of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, accusing U.S. Soccer of wage discrimination. As a result of the collective bargaining agreement long ago negotiated between members of the U.S. women’s national team and U.S. Soccer, they maintained, the women’s national team cumulatively earned only 40 percent as much as the men’s national team despite winning its third World Cup last year. “The numbers speak for themselves,” said Solo. “We are the best in the world, have three World Cup championships [and] four Olympic championships.” The men’s national team, she continued, “[gets] paid more to just show up than we get paid to win major championships.”

Indeed, the members of the women’s national team included several examples of wage discrimination in their federal complaint:

First, even though they are paid an annual salary of $72,000 and members of the men’s national team are not paid an annual salary, members of the women’s national team are paid $1,400 less to participate in each of 20 annual exhibition matches and conferred $6,816 less of a bonus for each victory than are members of the men’s national team. Such a payment and bonus structure renders a hypothetical scenario by which members of the men’s national team may be paid more after losing each of their 20 annual exhibition matches than members of the women’s national team may be paid after winning each of their 20 annual exhibition matches.

Second, members of the women’s national team are conferred $32,083, $227,917 and $315,625 less of a bonus for third, second and first place finishes in the quadrennial World Cup championship tournament than are members of the men’s national team. Consequently, members of the women’s national team were cumulatively paid $2 million for winning the 2015 World Cup; whereas, members of the men’s national team were cumulatively paid $9 million despite failing to advance beyond the round of 16 of the 2014 World Cup. Although the disparity in World Cup bonuses between the women’s national team and the men’s national team is due to FIFA’s paying men’s World Cup participants more than women’s World Cup participants, U.S. Soccer is able, but unwilling, to equally allocate its World Cup revenue.

Third, members of the women’s national team are conferred $12.50 and $15 less of a daily allowance for participating in both domestic camps and international camps and paid $750 less per sponsor appearance than are members of the men’s national team. Lloyd recently wrote in The New York Times:

“I was on the road for about 260 days last year. When I am traveling internationally, I get $60 a day for expenses. Michael Bradley gets $75. Maybe they figure that women are smaller and thus eat less. When Hope Solo or Alex Morgan, say, makes a sponsor appearance for U.S. Soccer, she gets $3,000. When Geoff Cameron or Jermaine Jones makes the same sort of appearance, he gets $3,750.”

Sunil Gulati, the president of U.S. Soccer, defended the federation, alleging that the men’s national team generated more attendance and revenue than the women’s national team and, therefore, denouncing the accusations of wage discrimination by the members of the women’s national team as “inaccurate, misleading or both.”

Historically, the men’s national team has generated more attendance than the women’s national team. However, the women’s national team generated more attendance than the men’s national team in 2015. In 2015, for instance, the women’s national team generated an average attendance of 595,841, 74,142 more than the men’s national team.

Furthermore, historically, the men’s national team has generated more revenue than the women’s national team. However, the women’s national team generated more revenue than the men’s national team in 2015 and is projected to do so, yet again, this year. In 2015, for instance the women’s national team, generated $23 million in revenue, profiting $4.6 more than the men’s national team. This year, the women’s national team is projected to generate $17.5 million in revenue and profit $5 million. The men’s national team, on the other hand, is projected to generate $9 million in revenue and lose $1 million.

Gulati also contests the basis of the public demand made by the members of the women’s national team of “equal pay for equal work.” The women’s national team, for instance, participates in five matches in a single, two-week tournament in order to qualify for the World Cup. The men’s national team, on the other hand, participates in 16 matches across two years in order to qualify for the World Cup. However, between 2012 and 2015, the women’s national team cumulatively participated in between 40 and 50 percent more matches than the men’s national team.

“While U.S. Soccer also counts the women’s biweekly salaries as a mitigating factor in its favor in the pay-equity dispute,” explains Andrew Das in The New York Times, “the women play more games on a year-to-year basis and must win them to claim their bonuses, effectively requiring them to work harder and perform better just to keep pace.”

Nonetheless, U.S. Soccer responded to the federal complaint filed against it by similarly filing a lawsuit against the union representing the members of the women’s national team in an effort to obtain a “declaratory relief,” or a court ruling that the terms of the collective bargaining agreement long ago negotiated between members of the women’s national team and the federation remain valid. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission may reach a resolution after the conclusion of the lawsuit filed by U.S. Soccer, indicating, perhaps, that the federation may hold more leverage in its negotiations of a new collective bargaining agreement with the members of the women’s national team.

“If the court rules for the players, and throws out the C.B.A., they will have enormous leverage on the eve of the Olympics, including the ability to strike,” explains Das. “If U.S. Soccer wins, there will be little to do but continue negotiations on a new agreement before the existing one expires on Dec. 31. In either case, the players will probably emerge with an improved deal — but only if serious discussions resume.”

The current dispute between the members of the women’s national team and U.S. Soccer, however, is more important now than ever before, especially given the recent record-breaking performances, popularity and profitability made possible by the women’s national team. Indeed, the results of the resolution reached by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as well as the conclusion of the lawsuit filed by U.S. Soccer, may affect the women’s national team for years to come.

Bibliography:

Andrew Das. “Pay Disparity in U.S. Soccer? It’s Complicated.” The New York Times. April 21, 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/22/sports/soccer/usmnt-uswnt-soccer-equal-pay.html?ref=soccer (accessed on April 21, 2016).
Andrew Das. “Top Female Players Accuse U.S. Soccer of Wage Discrimination.” The New York Times. March 31, 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/01/sports/soccer/uswnt-us-women-carli-lloyd-alex-morgan-hope-solo-complain.html (accessed on April 21, 2016).
Andrew Das. “U.S. Soccer Sues Union Representing the Women’s National Team.” The New York Times. February 3, 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/04/sports/soccer/us-soccer-sues-womens-national-team-in-federal-court.html (accessed on April 21, 2016).
Carli Lloyd. “Carli Lloyd: Why I’m Fighting for Equal Pay.” The New York Times. April 10, 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/11/sports/soccer/carli-lloyd-why-im-fighting-for-equal-pay.html (accessed on April 21, 2016).
Karen Yourish, Joe Ward and Sarah Almukhtar. “How Much Less are Female Soccer Players Paid?” The New York Times. March 31, 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/03/31/sports/soccer/us-women-soccer-wage.html (accessed on April 21, 2016).
“U.S. MNT Attendance Year-By-Year.” U.S. Soccer. 2016. http://www.ussoccer.com/mens-national-team/records/mnt-attendance-by-year (accessed on April 21, 2016).
“U.S. WNT Year-By-Year Attendance.” U.S. Soccer. 2016. http://www.ussoccer.com/womens-national-team/records/attendance (accessed on April 21, 2016).

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