USWNT seek more than US$66m in discrimination suit

USWNT seek more than US$66m in discrimination suit
Players on the United States women’s national team (USWNT) are seeking more than US$66 million in damages in their ongoing gender discrimination lawsuit against US Soccer (USSF).

Among the documents filed on 20th February in US District Court in Los Angeles were the separate collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) of the country’s men’s and women’s teams, which had previously not been made public.

Notably, the CBAs highlight a disparity in bonuses between the two teams, while also showing the different pay structures. The USWNT have continually said that between March 2013 and December 2016, the period for the last CBA, players could have earned no more than US$99,000, or US$4,950 per match, for playing and winning a series of 20 games in one year. That was 62 per cent less than a men’s national team member could have earned from the same number of matches.

It follows a report by the Wall Street Journal last June that showed the USWNT generated more revenue than the men’s team from 2016 to 2018. Figures from US Soccer apparently showed the women brought in US$50.8 million, compared to the men’s US$49.9 million.

However, US Soccer has argued throughout the equal pay lawsuit that the USWNT had readily agreed to their contracts.

‘Women’s national team players are paid differently because they specifically asked for and negotiated a completely different contract than the men’s national team, despite being offered, and rejecting, a similar pay-to-play agreement during the past negotiations,’ US Soccer said in a statement.

‘Their preference was a contract that provides significant additional benefits that the men’s national team does not have, including guaranteed annual salaries, medical and dental insurance, paid child-care assistance, paid pregnancy and parental leave, severance benefits, salary continuation during periods of injury, access to a retirement plan, multiple bonuses and more.’

These assertions were disputed by USWNT Molly Levinson, who argued that the team did not reject the pay-to-play agreement, arguing that they were never offered one.

‘In the most recent CBA negotiation, USSF repeatedly said that equal pay was not an option regardless of pay structure,’ Levinson said in a statement.

‘USSF proposed a ‘pay-to-play structure' with less pay across the board. In every instance for a friendly or competitive match, the women players were offered less pay than their male counterparts. This is the very definition of gender discrimination, and of course the players rejected it.’

During the latest FIFA World Cup 2018 and 2019 cycles for the men’s and women’s teams respectively, as reported by US media, a US man who was involved in all 16 qualifiers earned US$179,375 in payments from USSF. The team failed to qualify for the tournament. When they did make it to the 2014 edition, each squad member was paid US$55,000 and US$5,500 per match. Furthermore, the squad collectively earned US$175,000 per point during the group stages and US$3.6 million, again collectively, for reaching the last 16.

In comparison, a USWNT player received US$52,500 for being involved in all five FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifiers. They also received US$147,500 during France 2019 when they won the event.

Currently, USSF keeps between 16 and 21 players under contract to the USWNT per year, paying them US$100,000 annually. The organisation also pays a minimum 22 players assigned to a club in the National Women’s Super League (NWSL), who each get US$70,000 to US$75,000 this season.

In addition, women receive 75 per cent of their salary while on maternity leave for up to one year. They are also covered for health, dental and eye insurance.

US Soccer has maintained that USWNT players were paid more than their male counterparts over the course of the current CBA, due to expire in 2021. But the US women have countered that by saying they would have to play, and win, more games, seeming to support their lack of equal pay case.

The US$37 million total that USSF is saying the women made, US$16 million more than the men, includes pay from the NWSL, which the USWNT believes should be categorised separately. The men, many of whom play abroad, receive far larger salaries from their clubs.

The trial is scheduled to start on 5th May.

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