Close examination of the indoor standings of the North American Soccer League reveals an unusual scheduling feat: the Canadian teams are not playing in the United States; the U.S. teams are not venturing north. There are two unofficial conferences: the American and the Canadian.
At the moment, the twain will not meet.
The Department of Labor and the Immigration and Naturalization Service, refusing to recognize the indoor season because of an injunction issued last August, will not certify the NASL players or approve visa applications for the Canadian teams to enter the U.S.
The indoor season and the direction of labor negotiations for the North American Soccer League -- indoor and outdoor -- rest on the finding of a National Labor Relations Board hearing that has reached the final stages. The finding will either pave the way for the season to proceed or for a contempt of court charge against the NASL.
"We are confident we will finish the season," said Bob Rolnick, NASL legal representative.
"It's unprecedented -- for three years they've refused to bargain with us and now it's finally caught up with them," said Ed Garvey, executive director of the NASLPA.
"We have informally indicated," said Carl Gerig of the Department of Labor, "that if and when the court authorizes the thing to proceed, we'll certify. That hasn't happened."
Last Thursday, in a significant defeat for the NASL and major victory for the NASLPA, Federal District Court Judge for D. C. Oliver Gash refused to grant a NASL request that would have required Labor and INS to grant certification and approve visa applications. INS and Labor are acting pursuant to an injunction issued last August by Judge Constance Baker Motley of the Federal District Court in New York. Motley enjoined the NASL from proceding with its indoor season without a collective bargaining agreement, unless the sides had reached a good faith impasse.
On Sept. 23 the NASL said it had reached an impasse. Garvey said no impasse had been reached. The NLRB began to collect evidence. The NASL went ahead with its season and ran into the INS-Labor roadblock.
Gash granted the INS motion to transfer the case back to Motley. The NASL has decided not to pursue the case in New York, according to Bob Rolnick, NASL legal representative. Given that Motley found against the NASL in August, Rolnick's strategy is understandable. Thus, it all rests with the NLRB, which has heard both sides.
If it rules that the NASL was in contempt of court by going ahead with its season, it would present evidence to Motley, and the NASL would face, at the very least, heavy fines. It would also give the union tremendous leverage at the bargaining table. If the NLRB finds no grounds for contempt, then Labor will certify and the INS will approve visa applications.
"To us," said Mike Heilman of the INS, "the (August) injunction clearly banned the playing of the winter season. If there is no winter season, there is no job. Our position, then, is we will not approve petitions related to the winter season."
"We're handling it expeditiously; we understand the consequences," said Joseph P. Norelli, deputy assistant general counsel for the NLRB. "But I can't give you a date. Just say, 'as quickly as possible.' The regional staff has written up a recommendation, which I can't reveal. But the ultimate decision on whether to petition for contempt, which would put the whole kibosh on the indoor season, rests with the general counsel." General counsel for the NLRB is William Lubbers.