NEW YORK – NHL players are a step closer to dissolving their union.
Union members voted this week to give the players’ association’s executive board the power to file a “disclaimer of interest” until Jan. 2.
A person familiar with the outcome of the vote told the Associated Press on Friday that the measure passed easily, drawing more than two-thirds majority that was necessary. However, the executive board hasn’t made plans yet to meet to discuss whether to file the disclaimer. If the Jan. 2 deadline passes, another authorization vote could be held to approve a filing at a later date.
If the executive board files the disclaimer, the union would dissolve and become a trade association. That would allow players to file antitrust lawsuits against the NHL.
Negotiations between the NHL and the union have been at a standstill since talks ended on Dec. 6. No bargaining is scheduled, and time is running short to save the season. All games through Jan. 14 have been canceled, more than half the season.
A new labor agreement would need to be in place by about that time to salvage a 48-game schedule, the minimum in Commissioner Gary Bettman’s opinion for the season to proceed.
The NHLPA appears set to follow the lead set by NFL and NBA players. Both dissolved their unions during lockouts last year.
Jeffrey Kessler, the lead negotiator for the National Basketball Players Association in that dispute, contends the NHLPA would be wise to go ahead with the “disclaimer of interest.”
“I think this is much more likely to lead to a settlement sooner,” Kessler told the Canadian Press last week. “The players have concluded that they are on the verge of possibly deciding that it is better not to be a union and using the antitrust laws to attack the lockout, which all fans should be happy with because it’ll work.”