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AFL-CIO president offers to mediate NFL deal

- Associated Press - Thursday, September 30, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - The president of the AFL-CIO is ready to play mediator in the NFL's labor dispute.

In a letter obtained Thursday by The Associated Press, AFL-CIO President RichardTrumka offered to sit down with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith and determine the parameters for a new collective bargaining agreement.

"I would like to invite you both to meet with me to discuss how an agreement might be reached," the letter reads. "I believe such a meeting would be an immediate and important step toward saving football for the 2011 season and avoiding the significant job losses that will occur if owners lock out the players and cancel games."

The current CBA does not expire until March, and Smith contends league owners are preparing to lock out the players before the start of next season.

The two sides held their most recent bargaining session earlier this week in Washington.

Neither league officials nor players association representatives responded immediately to e-mailed requests for comment from the AP regarding Trumka's letter, which went to NFL owners, mayors of NFL cities and governors of states that have NFL teams.

It's not the first time the AFL-CIO, a labor union federation, has jumped into the NFL's game.

Two weeks ago, Trumka sent a letter to all 32 team owners, warning that a lockout could cost thousands of Americans their jobs and cities more than $140 million in revenue.

Trumka made some familiar requests in the second letter, too.

He asked Goodell to provide profit or loss statements and operating expenses of NFL teams in addition to other financial details that would justify a reduction in benefits to the players or the necessity for a lockout. The NFLPA has been seeking team financial statements for months.

But Trumka also asked Smith to provide details about player salaries, pensions and health care benefits, saying that it was essential that all of the information be available for a "fair and productive" meeting.

"I believe that a productive meeting and a production of the relevant financial information will be useful in helping to avoid a work stoppage that would impact thousands of jobs nationwide," Trumka wrote in the Sept. 27 letter. "Now is the time for the NFL and the NFL Players Association to demonstrate their commitment to reaching a fair settlement."

Smith has continued to insist the league is headed toward a lockout, in part because the television networks will continue to pay the owners next season regardless of whether the games are played.

Goodell points out that eventually owners will have to pay that money back if the games are canceled.

In Indianapolis, which is scheduled to host its first Super Bowl after the 2011 season, local organizers have said league officials are urging them to be ready for the game to be played, as scheduled, on Feb. 5, 2012.

The biggest point of contention, of course, is money.

Players currently receive 59.6 percent of designated NFL revenues, a number agreed to in 2006. The owners say that's too much, arguing they have huge debts from building stadiums and starting up the NFL Network and other ventures, making it impossible to be profitable.

But money isn't the only issue.

On Tuesday, the owners gave union executives their first formal proposal for a new 18-game regular season.

One day earlier, Colts President Bill Polian said the expanded season was a "fait accompli." He clarified those remarks Wednesday by telling ESPN Radio: "I was very imprecise. I said that the 18-game season was a fait accompli and ... it isn't. It is subject to lengthy discussion in detail with the players' association."

All the AFL-CIO claims it wants to do is help.

"Millions of our hard-working members love professional football, and a great many of them also rely upon the game for their economic health," Trumka wrote. "We stand ready to assist in reaching a collectively-bargained solution."

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