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Judge grants USWNT class status in discrimination lawsuit

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The U.S. women’s national team has been granted class status in its lawsuit against U.S. Soccer that alleges gender discrimination in compensation and working conditions.

U.S. District Court Judge R. Gary Klausner’s ruling Friday in Los Angeles expands the case beyond the 28 players who originally brought the lawsuit to include all players who had been called up to camp or played in a game over a multiyear period. U.S. Soccer had opposed the move to certify the class.

[READ: Lloyd leads USWNT, Andonovski to first win]

Twenty-eight players, including stars Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe, were part of the original suit filed against U.S. Soccer in March alleging institutionalized gender discrimination that includes inequitable compensation between the men’s and women’s teams. A May 5 trial date has been set in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

The federation has maintained that compensation for each team is the result of separate collective bargaining agreements, and that the pay structures are different as a result. Men’s team players are paid largely by appearance and performance, while the contract for the women’s team includes provisions for health care and other benefits, as well as salaries in the National Women’s Soccer League.

The players disputed U.S. Soccer’s claims that some of them made more than their male counterparts, maintaining that if men had been as successful as the women’s team, they would have earned far more. The U.S. women won back-to-back World Cup titles in 2015 and 2019. The men failed to make the field for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Judge Klausner did not rule on the merits of the lawsuit but acknowledged the players’ claims that they were paid less on a per-game basis than the men and did not enjoy the same working conditions.

“The failure to provide the (women’s National Team) with equal working conditions is a real (not abstract) injury which affects each Plaintiff in a personal and individual way,” the judge ruled “Plaintiffs also have offered sufficient proof of this injury. Indeed, Plaintiffs have submitted declarations establishing that WNT players were subject to discriminatory working conditions.”

Molly Levinson, who speaks for the players in matters of the lawsuit, applauded the ruling.

“This is a historic step forward in the struggle to achieve equal pay. We are so pleased that the Court has recognized USSF’s ongoing discrimination against women players – rejecting USSF’s tired arguments that women must work twice as hard and accept lesser working conditions to get paid the same as men. We are calling on (U.S. Soccer President) Carlos Cordeiro to lead USSF and demand an end to the unlawful discrimination against women now,” Levinson said.

U.S. Soccer had “no specific comment” on the ruling.

Ledezma, Mendez headline U.S. Olympic training camp squad

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While Sergiño Dest is taking some time to think over his international future, two dual-nationals currently in the U.S. Soccer system are sticking with the Red, White, and Blue for now.

Richard Ledezma of PSV and Alex Mendez of Ajax both accepted call-ups from U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team Coach Jason Kreis for a training camp this month featuring many Olympic-eligible players. The U.S. squad will train in Miami and play a friendly match against El Salvador.

El Salvador of course knocked the U.S. out of the 2012 Olympic qualifying tournament, handing Jurgen Klinsmann – and Caleb Porter at the time a huge blow both in terms of player development and having a chance to represent the USMNT at a major tournament.

Other members of the squad include Minnesota United talents Mason Toye and Hassan Dotsani, Hannover forward Sebastian Soto, Atlanta United centerback Miles Robinson and Bayern Munich defender Chris Richards.

The news that Ledezma and Mendez, who are both eligible to play for the USMNT and Mexico in the future, are in the squad for this training camp is a great sign for US Soccer fans. Soto as well is eligible to play for Chile and Mexico due to his family history.

It’s unclear whether Tata Martino would have a place for any of these players in his team, but as they grow in Europe, there’s no doubt that they will receive more interest from the Mexican FA (FMF).

That said, US Soccer can show that they’ve invested countless hours in Ledezma, Mendez, Soto, and of course in Dest as well in the youth system, all preparing them for a great pro career and success with the national team. The longer Mendez and Ledezma stay in the US system as well, the more likely they’ll stay after developing great relationships with their teammates and other coaches.

USMNT players’ union back USWNT in equal pay battle

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The US National Soccer Team Players Association (UNSTPA) have released a statement backing the USWNT in their equal pay battle with the U.S. Soccer Federation.

Following USSF president Carlos Cordeiro releasing a statement which included claims that the USWNT cost U.S. Soccer $27 million over the last 11 years and that they paid the women’s team more than the men during that period, the men’s national team have once again reiterated their support for the USWNT.

“The federation downplays contributions to the sport when it suits them,” said the UNSTPA. “This is more of the same from a federation that is constantly in disputes and litigation and focuses on increasing revenue and profits without any idea how to use that money to grow the sport. One way to increase profit unfairly is to refuse to pay national team players a fair share of the revenue they generate.”

The UNSTPA, the labor organization for the current and former members of the USMNT, went on to pick apart Cordeiro’s comments regarding labor negotiations as their current CBA agreement expired at the end of 2018 and they are yet to hear from him.

“The women’s national team players deserve equal pay and are right to pursue a legal remedy from the courts or Congress. The Federation correctly points to the different payment systems with USWNT players on contracts, but we do not believe that justifies discrediting the work they do or the real value of their profound impact on the American sports landscape. The only solution Mr. Cordeiro proposes is for fans to buy more tickets and watch more games on television.

“He conceals the fact that the money will not go to USWNT players when sponsors pay the Federation to support the USWNT, fans buy tickets to USWNT games at ever-increasing ticket prices, and television companies pay more when more fans watch USWNT games. That is neither fair nor equitable. We are also surprised Mr. Cordeiro is writing about labor issues since he has yet to contact the USNSTPA since taking office. As you may know, our CBA expired at the end of 2018 and we are currently waiting on a response from US Soccer to our proposal that would pay the men a fair share of all of the revenue they generate and would provide equal pay to the USMNT and USWNT players.”

U.S. Soccer files response to lawsuit filed by women’s team

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The U.S. Soccer Federation has formally denied allegations of gender discrimination made by players of the U.S. women’s national team.

Twenty-eight members of the current women’s player pool filed the lawsuit March 8 in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, alleging “institutionalized gender discrimination” that includes unequal pay with their counterparts on the men’s national team.

The USSF filed its answer on Monday, about one month before the Women’s World Cup. The USSF claims every decision made “with respect to the conduct alleged in the complaint was for legitimate business reasons and not for any discriminatory or other unlawful purpose.”

The federation has maintained the differences in pay are the result of different collective bargaining agreements that establish distinct pay structures for the two teams. Those agreements are not public.

U.S. Soccer also maintained in the response that any alleged differences in pay between the men’s and women’s national teams were not based on gender, but “differences in the aggregate revenue generated by the different teams and/or any other factor other than sex.”

“There is no legal basis for USSF’s claim that it is anything other than a single employer operating both the men’s and women’s teams – who face drastically unequal conditions and pay under their shared employer, said Molly Levinson, a spokeswoman for the national team players who filed the lawsuit. “The USSF cannot justify its violation of the Equal Pay Act and Title VII by pointing to the teams’ separate collective bargaining agreements or any factor other than sex. Even as the most decorated American soccer team in history, USSF treats the women’s team as `less-than’ equal compared to their male colleagues. We look forward to a trial next year after the World Cup.”

The USSF and the women’s team agreed in April 2017 to a collective bargaining agreement through 2021 that gave the players higher pay and better benefits.

The federation claims the allegations do not rise to the level required for punitive damages because there is no evidence of malicious, reckless or fraudulent intent to deny the players their rights.

The lawsuit brought by current national team players is an escalation of a long-simmering dispute over pay and treatment. Five players filed a complaint in 2016 with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that alleged wage discrimination by the federation. The lawsuit effectively ended that EEOC complaint.

U.S. Soccer asks court to consolidate discrimination lawsuits

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The U.S. Soccer Federation has asked a court to consolidate a gender discrimination lawsuit filed by players on the women’s national team with an action filed earlier by former goalkeeper Hope Solo.

The federation filed the motion Thursday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. A hearing was scheduled for April 29.

The 28 members of the current women’s player pool filed their lawsuit earlier this month. It accuses the U.S. Soccer Federation of “institutionalized gender discrimination” that includes unequal pay with their counterparts on the men’s national team.

Solo filed a similar lawsuit in August in the Northern District of California.

Solo no longer plays for the national team. Her contract was terminated when she was suspended from the team following the 2016 Rio Olympics. However, she continues to champion gender equity issues.

She told The Associated Press earlier this month that she had hoped her former teammates would join in her lawsuit.

“It was clear that U.S. Soccer was never going to acquiesce or negotiate to provide us equal pay or agree to treat us fairly,” she said. “The filing by the entire United Sates women’s national team demonstrated that they no longer fear the federation by forcefully and publicly acknowledging U.S. Soccer’s violations of the Equal Pay Act and Title VII.”

The lawsuit brought by current national team players is an escalation of a long-simmering dispute over pay and treatment. Five players, including Solo, filed a complaint in 2016 with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that alleged wage discrimination by the federation. The lawsuit effectively ended that EEOC complaint.

U.S. Soccer maintains that the men’s and women’s teams have separate collective bargaining agreements and their pay is structured differently. That means there is no simple dollar-to-dollar salary comparison. Terms of the CBAs have not been made public.

Compensation for the women includes a guaranteed salary and salaries paid by the USSF for their time with clubs in the National Women’s Soccer League. The men get paid based on appearances, roster selection for friendlies and tournaments, and collective performance. The USSF has cited the contracts, as well as the revenue generated by the teams, as the reason for the differences in pay.