Breaking News: Soto Calls Work Stoppage "Highly Likely"
The Executive Director of the Arena Football League Players Union (AFLPU) Ivan Soto has declared that a work stoppage in the AFL this week is "highly likely" at potentially all three of the games this weekend. This is definitely not the first time that a work stoppage has been threatened by the AFLPU, but if a strike occurs, it would be the second time this year that there are labor issues that harm an AFL game.
Sources have been telling ArenaFan.com that for the last two weeks, the threat has been there for the AFLPU to call for a work stoppage. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review published an article by Jerry DiPaola on Thursday night confirming the fact that another strike is imminent.
We all remember the first week of the year when the Orlando Predators and the Pittsburgh Power played in a game that was chock full of scabs. The Power won the game 40-26, but they only have one more victory this year, which also came against the Predators. Orlando is just 1-10 this year, and it is clearly putting together the worst season that it has had in the history of its franchise.
One would figure if there is a work stoppage on Friday night, the AFLPU could call on the Power to make another statement to the League. Soto assured the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review though, that the Power will not be involved. Soto told DiPaola, "Our goal is not to destroy the Pittsburgh Power."
At least as of this hour, none of the teams in the AFL have reportedly been preparing for the strike as teams were in Week 1 when there were replacements available supposedly all across the country. It is unknown whether the AFL is taking this threat seriously or not. It is clear to this writer though, that it was no mistake that the league "flexed" its game on the NFL Network away from the Pittsburgh vs. Cleveland Gladiators game and to the Philadelphia Soul vs. Milwaukee Mustangs game instead.
So that brings up all of the possibilities. Please note that all of this is speculation on my behalf, and we do not have confirmation of any of this.
If the Power aren't being put into the fray of the strike, that could mean one of two things. Pittsburgh might not have the players on the team now that are willing to strike. From that first week, there just aren't all that many players that are left that didn't cross over the line. WR Mike Washington, WR/DB PJ Berry, and QB Andrico Hines all crossed over the line and played in the game against the Predators. The two biggest players that stood up for the efforts of the AFLPU were OL Beau Elliott and QB Kyle Rowley. Rowley is now with the Spokane Shock. Elliott is on injured reserve.
It could also mean that the AFLPU is sincere over the fact that it really doesn’t want to put this Pittsburgh team through it again. Remember though, that there are a lot of players that have come out of the IFL and the PIFL that have gotten raises from the $200 per game that they were receiving in their old leagues to $400 per game that they are getting now. It is hard to imagine these players stepping away from the AFL and their salaries in the name of a strike on a team that clearly isn't going anywhere regardless of how the last few weeks of the season play out.
So that means that the Gladiators are expected to be a part of this strike. If that's the case, one would figure that QB John Dutton is going to be spearheading the effort as the most veteran player that the team has to offer. If Dutton leaves the team, that would leave the Gladiators with just QB Matt Bassuener as the only other quarterback on the roster. We also know that LB Tim Cheatwood is one of the player representatives for Cleveland. Of all of the teams that could possibly fit the mold as a team that has "100% percent" of players that would adhere to a strike order, the Gladiators are the ones that seem to be the most likely to stand their guard.
What I find most interesting about all of this is that Soto mentioned that the Power were not going to be a part of the strike. But will the Predators do it again? The team has just one win this year and won't be in the playoffs for the first time since 1991. However, would you really want to go on strike if you are an Orlando player for a game in San Jose, 3,000 miles away from home? The Predators are expected to activate DB Kenny McEntyre for this game, and it is unknown as to whether bringing in "The Glove" has anything to do with the potential strike or not.
Would the SaberCats be willing to go on strike? From all of what we have heard at ArenaFan, it doesn't seem overly likely that the Cats would be willing to give up their jobs either, though there are a heck of a lot of veterans on their team that can't be overly happy with $400 per week when they used to make significantly more money in the old AFL.
Now let's go to the Soul. Philadelphia has had a history of being involved in some shady things throughout the league. All we have to do is go back to the 2008 playoffs when the Soul ended up with a victory against the New York Dragons that they never should have had, and a win against the SaberCats thanks to a ton of reviews that mysteriously all went the way of the boys from the City of Brotherly Love. It doesn't seem likely that these shenanigans could be taking place with the Soul in my eyes, but the possibility has to be considered at least remotely there.
Milwaukee is one of the teams of interest to us. We know that OL Adam Tadisch was heavily involved in the union in the past. He was a player representative for the Gladiators, and we have to assume that he has the same position with the Mustangs. Unfortunately for Tadisch, he suffered a horrifying injury against the Tampa Bay Storm a few weeks ago, and he won't be able to be back on the field for quite some time. We also already know that WR Taurian Washington crossed the picket line in the past in that Orlando/Pittsburgh game, but we also know that WR Dwayne Eley Jr. has already been on strike once. With Washington on the roster, it is unlikely that "100%" of the team would be involved in a strike order, but perhaps this could be one of the teams that Soto referred to as having "50%" involved in a prospective strike.
The sad part about this for the Mustangs is that this game against Philadelphia is supposed to be their showcase night when they brought back their old purple and teal uniforms for the first ever "AFL throwback jersey" game.
The biggest issues right now do not appear to be monetary. The players, who were once searching for over $1,200 per week for pay, have cut their offer in half to just $600 per game with a starting quarterback bonus of $1,275. The owners are offering $500 per player per game with a matching starting quarterback bonus. The owners have reportedly not budged from their offer of $500 per player per game during the entire negotiating process.
Instead, one of the issues at hand is arbitration. Commissioner Jerry B. Kurz has the right and authority to fine players for various acts, and the players do not have the right to an appeal process. The players are searching for neutral arbitration, and one multiple members of the AFLPU have told ArenaFan that that issue is "non-negotiable" for a deal to be done. It is unclear what issue in the proposed collective bargaining agreement that Commissioner Kurz and the league's owners disagree with, but Kurz did tell DiPaola, "We don't think what they are asking for is appropriate."
On Thursday night, ArenaFan received the following statement from AFLPU Executive Vice President Steve Watson.
"We will continue to attempt to work with the League to resolve all labor issues. At some point, the league will have to accept the fact that the players, current and future, are partners in the present and future success of the AFL. The AFLPU is not going anywhere, and the sooner the League accepts that, the sooner we can move forward with meaningful negotiations. Labor unrest in not in the best interest of anyone involved, and it would be a shame should a work stoppage ever become necessary. We will continue to put the best interest of the players as well as the mutually beneficial future success of the AFL as our top priority!"
ArenaFan has reached out to the League for comment, but as of this hour, emails have not been returned.
Stay tuned to ArenaFan.com for the latest developments in this story.