The path is clear for U.S. women's national team players to proceed with their appeal on equal pay now that the working conditions settlement between the USWNT and U.S. Soccer Federation was approved by a court on Monday.
Molly Levinson, a spokeswoman for the USWNT players, said in a statement the group intends to appeal the judge's May 2020 dismissal of the equal pay claims. They could not move forward with it until the settlement was finalized. Via Caitlin Murray:
"We are pleased that the court has approved the equal working conditions that the USWNT Players have fought for many years to achieve. Finally, giving these athletes access to facilities, training, care, and professional support is the next step needed in the long and hard work to grow the game of women's football. Now that this is behind us, we intend to appeal the Court's equal pay decision, which does not account for the fact that women players have been paid at lesser rates than men who do the same job. We are committed as ever to our work to achieve the equal pay that we legally deserve and our focus is on the future and ensuring we leave the game a better place for the next generation of women who will play for this team and our country."
The settlement, which was made in December ahead of a potential January meeting in court, includes new policies for charter flights, venue selection, staffing and hotel accommodations that are more in line with what the men's national soccer team receives.
USWNT to appeal equal pay case
The working conditions settlement is unrelated to the players' wage discrimination claims. R. Gary Klausner, the judge presiding over the case, granted summary judgement in May 2020 in favor of the U.S. Soccer Federation, saying the players' claims of being paid less than their male counterparts were insufficient to warrant a trial. The USWNT is seeking as much as $67 million in backpay.
Levinson, on behalf of the players, said immediately after the decision they would "appeal and press on." But the players could not move forward with it until the trial over working conditions concluded. The court's acceptance of a settlement puts an end to that legal fight, and opens the door for that of equal pay.
In a statement, the U.S. Soccer Federation acknowledged the upcoming appeal and remained hopeful for a meeting with USWNT as well as a resolution outside of the courts:
We expected the Women’s National Team to appeal the summary judgment ruling that determined U.S. Soccer has paid the USWNT fair and equitable compensation. We remain hopeful that we can come to a resolution outside of the court system.
U.S. Soccer is 100 percent committed to equal pay.
We have offered the USWNT the identical compensation provided to our men’s players for all matches controlled by U.S. Soccer.
Unfortunately, the USWNT has not accepted our offer or our long-standing invitation to meet to try to find a resolution unless U.S. Soccer first agrees to make up the difference between the Men’s and Women’s World Cup prize money, which is determined, controlled and paid for by FIFA.
Our request to meet still stands, and we hope the USWNT will accept our invitation very soon. We look forward to working together to chart a positive path to grow the game both here at home and around the world.
The sides have tried mediation with no success following the March 2019 filing of the lawsuit. In August 2019 talks broke down and both sides accused the other of being unwilling to negotiate in good faith and be productive with the talks. A few months later, U.S. Soccer said the players wouldn't meet with them.
Rapinoe optimistic about case, 'tone shift'
Megan Rapinoe, the 2019 FIFA Player of the Year after her World Cup heroics, told Yahoo Sports earlier this month she felt good about the equal pay case "because I know what the reality is."
"I know how strong our case is," Rapinoe said. "I feel like probably for both sides a settlement would be the best thing if we can get to a place that’s fair and equitable. And that makes us whole from discrimination in the past and sets us a future deal that will make sure that there’s fair and equitable pay and we don’t get into this situation again."
She told Yahoo Sports she believes there's a tone shift in the federation thanks in part to Cindy Parlow Cone, a former USWNT player who took over as U.S. Soccer president when Carlos Cordeiro stepped down in March of 2020. Parlow Cone seemed hopeful they could come to a resolution on equal pay claims when the settlement was announced in December, and as U.S. Soccer reiterated on Monday.
What working conditions settlement means for USWNT
The court's acceptance of the settlement puts into effect the agreement between the USWNT and U.S. Soccer made in December.
The USWNT and USMNT teams will each fly on the same number of charter flights, play at "top-tier venues" and "maintain comparable budgets" for hotels, per legal documents reported by Caitlin Murray. The number of federation employees on the support staff will also be equal.
The terms of how the policies will be implemented are under court seal because of "sensitive information" about the organization's "internal workings." They will be folded into the USWNT's collective bargaining agreement.
The USWNT players initially filed a lawsuit on the grounds of unequal working conditions, alleging the federation booked them inferior hotels to those the men stayed at as well as flying them commercial when the men got charters. They alleged the federation put the women on subpar fields and provided less support staff to their side.
U.S. Soccer said before the settlement agreement it had already remedied most of the claims put forth by the players. The USWNT players said they wanted to settle to assure guaranteed equality.
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