“Dissolving the union, whether through disclaimer or decertification, isn’t the bomb denotation that many claim it to be,” Feldman said. “It has the potential, if it plays its way through the courts. But it can be just a quick leverage shifter. Or it could be something that can solidify the players and the Players' Association and cause enough of a leverage shift to get an agreement done quickly.”
The leverage the players would have is taking control of the lockout from the owners. Think of it as a power play.
“I think this is done to put some pressure on the owners and allow players to go on the offensive,” Feldman said. “This is not a silver bullet if the players decide to take this step. But the hope is that it creates enough uncertainty that it brings both sides back to the table and gets an agreement.”
In order to decertify, at least 30 percent of players must sign a petition that would then go to the National Labor Relations Board. The board would set an election date for a decertification vote. The NHL and NHLPA could continue talking throughout the process.
Another option is the union disclaiming interest in the players, which would not requite any vote and could happen almost immediately.
Once players vote in favor of decertification or interest is disclaimed, the union would cease to exist and antitrust lawsuits can be filed; players can seek damages worth three times their salary. The league and players would be subject to U.S. law, though Feldman said it’s unclear if the NHL’s seven Canadian teams would have to go through separate litigation.
Far more likely than going through that process would be the sides coming to an agreement. That’s why so many are talking about decertification.
But does it make hockey more likely to return? There’s no simple answer.
“There’s not enough history to sort of guide us in this,” Feldman said. “I don’t think decertification by definition means we get a quicker deal or a slower deal. It can work both ways. It’s too hard to tell.”
It’s an unknown because no one knows what the league’s response to decertification would be. Fighting the battle in court against the players, who have an ex-National Labor Relations Board member as general counsel in Don Zavelo, likely would take long enough that the season would be canceled. The league could argue that it’s a sham decertification designed to gain leverage, leaving it to the courts to decide the next move.
But the threat of decertification could be the means to an end for the players.
“We’re getting informed about it. It’s not like it’s a priority in our minds right now,” Washington Capitals alternate NHLPA representative Troy Brouwer said. “We’re still working toward getting a deal. But as time goes on here, it looks like it’s getting tougher and tougher because the owners aren’t willing to really negotiate.”
Frustration over the current stalemate in CBA talks is making decertification a hot topic, but it’s believed that Fehr and others in the NHLPA have been researching it. Special counsel Steve Fehr told Sportsnet 590 that he would not reveal internal conversations but added that “all things are under consideration, and we’ll see where it goes.”
If the decertification movement goes anywhere, it could happen sooner rather than later because waiting almost certainly would cost the season. Perhaps that’s why Donald Fehr wouldn’t say it’s too soon in this lockout for the subject to be broached.
“You can look at what’s happened in the other sports and make your judgments about that,” Fehr said.View Entire Story
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