As management and union negotiators in the National Football League players strike prepared for a resumption of talks Saturday morning, the chief negotiator for the NFL met for 4 1/2 hours yesterday with the general counsel for the National Labor Relations Board to discuss complaints of unfair labor practices filed against the league.
Jack Donlan, executive director of the NFL Management Council, the league's labor negotiating arm, later called useful the meeting with William A. Lubbers, the NLRB's general counsel. "We explained our position, some things that maybe he was not aware of," Donlan said.
Donlan met with Lubbers the day after the NLRB regional director in New York filed a complaint against the NFL, accusing the league of refusing to bargain in good faith, and of causing and prolonging the strike by asking the union to waive its right to negotiate wages of its members.
Donlan was attempting to persuade Lubbers not to ask the five-member panel to file for an injunction in U.S. District Court that would compel the league to bargain in good faith. Appearing with him were Sargent Karch, counsel to the management council, and Betty Murphy, a former chairman of the NLRB.
The management council denies it is guilty of the charges and says issuance of the complaint is the legal equivalent of the filing of a lawsuit.
Meanwhile, officials at the NFL Players Association spent the 38th day of the strike in meetings to prepare for the resumption of talks in New York under the auspices of mediator Sam Kagel. He recessed the negotiations last Saturday after 12 days of attempting to settle the dispute in Cockeysville, Md., but announced Wednesday from his office in San Francisco he had called the sides back together.
Ed Garvey, executive director of the union, said he expects an offer from management Saturday that would include an across-the-board percentage increase in salaries. Management denies any offer is forthcoming.
In New York, Jim Heffernan, public relations director for the league, said an examination of meteorological data for January and February in 16 northern cities in the NFL indicated unusually adverse weather conditions for football, if a full 16-game schedule is played by tacking the six missed games onto the end of the regular season.
The NFLPA has urged such an attempt, but the NFL has opposed it. Yesterday, Donlan agreed the remaining schedule is a bargainable issue.
If the missed games were added to the end of the season, Heffernan said, 49 of a total of 84 would be played in the NFL's 16 northernmost cities, of which Washington is the farthest south. Four would be played in Green Bay or Milwaukee, where January temperatures over the last 10 years have averaged 13 degrees with a wind chill factor of minus eight, Heffernan said. Forecasts for this winter have January temperatures five to eight degrees below normal, he said.
As the resumption of negotiations approached, neither side indicated a basic change in position. Donlan said management has no new proposals.
The NFLPA says it is sticking to its basic demand -- that a trust fund be set up to pay player salaries on a seniority-based scale with performance incentive bonuses -- although it will consider alternatives, provided five basic player concerns are met. They are an immediate and substantial increase in salaries, protection for older players from being cut for economic reasons, guarantee of a fair share of future television revenue, performance incentive bonuses and elimination of wage inequities.
"The players want and deserve more money," said Mark Murphy, the player representative for the Washington Redskins, who noted NFL players earn substantially less than pro basketball or baseball players.
Moreover, said Murphy, despite denials by the league, veteran players are cut for economic reasons. "The one line that every general manager in the league uses is, 'Don't price yourself out of the market,' " Murphy said. He also said the union wants to eliminate what it sees as inequities in the way top-round draft picks and name players draw high bonuses and salaries while others lag substantially.
"It's not that we want to bring the high ones down; we want to bring everyone else up," Murphy said. On the television issue, he said, "You want to protect yourself in case they have windfall profits in the future."
Donlan contends management's latest offer, in which players were offered $10,000-a-year bonuses for every year in the league, retroactive for up to six years, addresses most of the union's concerns. That offer also increased minimum salaries and offered players $10,000 a year in credit towards severance pay, beginning this season and payable the year after the player leaves the NFL.
On the issue of a fair share of television money, Donlan said, "Our revenues are our own business."