Union player representatives from the National Football League's 28 teams will consider setting a strike deadline at a special meeting Monday in Chicago.
Mark Murphy, the Washington Redskins' player representative, said yesterday there will be no meaningful negotiations with NFL management unless a strike deadline is set.
"As long as there is no deadline, they will play the same stalling game," Murphy said at an afternoon press conference called by members of the Redskins and the Buffalo Bills before last night's game at RFK Stadium.
Ed Garvey, the executive director of the NFLPA, said Monday's meeting was expanded from an originally planned session of the nine-member executive committee of the union to the full board of player representatives specifically to address the issue of setting a strike deadline.
The expanded meeting was called following the collapse of contract negotiations here Wednesday between representatives of management and the union.
"Mark and some of the others said, 'Let's go ahead and set the date,' " said Garvey, adding that the union already has received the necessary two-thirds majority vote from the players to call a strike.
Murphy and Garvey said there is a range of opinion on when to call a strike, although both have said previously that a strike would be most effective once the regular season has begun. A work stoppage then would deprive the owners of lucrative television revenues.
An oft-repeated scenario has the players waiting until after the third game of the regular season to strike, because at that point their pension rights become fully vested for the year.
Jack Donlan, the executive director of the NFL Management Council, the league's labor negotiating arm, said he had no comment on the possible setting of a strike deadline. Donlan planned to attend last night's game as the guest of Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke.
In another development, Garvey said he met yesterday with Kay McMurray, the director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, to discuss the union's position in the contract negotiations. McMurray, whose help was formally requested by the management council, issued a statement through a spokesman saying that he would meet with both sides before deciding what action to take.
The issue of federal mediation will also be on the agenda at Monday's meeting, Garvey said, but Murphy said at the press conference that he doubts it will be helpful.
"Mediation is only useful if there are negotiations going on," said Murphy, contending that the management council has refused to bargain in good faith. "Donlan is trying to take the heat off himself."
Responded Donlan, "We can't get the union to negotiate. Anybody who has any negotiating experience has to use any device at his disposal to effectuate an agreement. Calling the federal mediation service seemed to be logical."
The Redskins-Bills "solidarity" press conference was one of several planned this weekend before preseason games. According to the NFLPA, press conferences were scheduled to precede the Houston-Tampa Bay game, the Seattle-Los Angeles Rams game, the Philadelphia-Atlanta game and possibly others.
Players participating here yesterday, in addition to Murphy, were Redskins kicker Mark Moseley and defensive end Dallas Hickman and Buffalo Bills linebacker Chris Keating, tight end Mark Brammer, wide receiver Lou Piccone, guard Reggie McKenzie and tackle Mike Kadish.
Murphy said many of the Redskin players were encouraged by Cooke's remarks Thursday that he believes the players should be better paid. "It's obvious he's not talking to Jack Donlan, because Donlan has not put one more dime on the table," Murphy said.
But Donlan said he agrees that the players should receive better pay and fringe benefits. "When we made our most recent proposal to them on July 13 we were hoping for some meaningful negotiations so we could get to another level," Donlan said.
The players are demanding that management divert 55 percent of the NFL's gross income to a trust fund that would pay player salaries on a seniority-based scale with performance incentives. Management says it will never agree to a wage scale tied to percentage of gross income.
Kadish, the union's player representative on the Bills, said yesterday's press conference was arranged jointly by the player representatives "because it was important for us to say something about the lack of progress" at the bargaining table.