[Updated 2:10 p.m.]
The NBA labor dispute has officially gotten heated after the league filed two claims Tuesday against the National Basketball Players Association. The league filed a suit with the National Labor Relation Board citing unfair labor practices – which counters a similar claim from the players’ union last month – and it also issued a federal lawsuit in New York.
The unfair labor practice charge asserts that the union has failed to bargain in good faith based on unlawful threats to “commence a sham ‘decertification’ and an antitrust lawsuit challenging the NBA’s lockout,” according to a statement. The federal lawsuit seeks to assert that the NBA lockout doesn’t violate federal antitrust laws and adds an interesting twist by starting that if the union’s decertification claims were found lawful, then all existing player contracts would become void and unenforceable.
“These claims were filed in an effort to eliminate the use of impermissible pressure tactics by the union which are impeding the parties’ ability to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement,” said NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Adam Silver. “For the parties to reach agreement on a new CBA, the union must commit to the collective bargaining process fully and in good faith.”
The NBA season is scheduled to begin on Nov. 1, but the owners appear to have made a pre-emptive strike to ensure that a new deal is negotiated on its terms. A protracted lockout has seemed likely for some time and the latest step, combined with the separation of the sides, raises the possibility of the league losing the entire 2011-12 season.
No progress was made in a three-hour meeting between the owners and players Monday, their first significant negotiation since the lockout began on July 1. Commissioner David Stern afterward questioned the players’ “willingness to engage in a serious way,” while union president Derek Fisher said that based on the position of the owners “we’re still a very, very long way from getting a deal done.”
Players’ union head Billy Hunter replied to the NBA claims with a statement: “The litigation tactics of the NBA today are just another example of their bad faith bargaining and we will seek the complete dismissal of the actions as they are totally without merit.
“ The NBA Players Association has not made any decision to disclaim its role as the collective bargaining representative of the players and has been engaged in good faith bargaining with the NBA for over two years. We urge the NBA to engage with us at the bargaining table and to use more productively the short time we have left before the 2011-12 season is seriously jeopardized.”