U.S. women’s soccer team not done yet

| Aug 7, 2019 | Employment law

The United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) captivated the world’s attention with latest FIFA World Cup with 2-0 win over the Netherlands on July 7. This championship is a successful defense of the team’s 2015 championship and unparalleled fourth cup overall. Nevertheless, the team’s success on the soccer pitch has been matched by a level of activism involving equal pay for women as well as other issues — President Trump attacked captain Megan Rapinoe for rejecting his invite to the White House before the tournament was finished.

Class action against USSF

The team filed a class-action lawsuit against the governing United States Soccer Federation (USSF) on March 8 on International Women’s Day. Following up another gender discrimination suit from 2015 involving unfair pay for the same work, this suit represents 28 players who have played for the team since 2015.

The main point of the suit is that USWNT is paid less than the United States Men’s National Team (USMNT), which did not even qualify for the tournament in 2018. While reports vary on the amounts and the two teams have different collective bargaining agreements, they earn about $100,000 with additional bonuses and pay based on wins and ties. The men are paid per game with different rates for winning or losing, while the women have a base wage with additional performance bonuses.

The trouble is that the USMNT could win all 20 exhibition games per year and still make 11% more than the women make if they had the same record. There are other issues named in the suit as well:

  • The men often travel by charter plane while the women often travel by bus.
  • The men have bigger per diems for food and expenses when traveling.
  • The men have better training facilities and more staff than the women.
  • The men enjoy better promotion of their games than the women.
  • The women sometimes have to play matches on artificial turf while the men have had grass installed.

The suit, in part, reads:

“At this moment of tremendous pride for America, the sad equation remains all too clear, and Americans won’t stand for it anymore. These athletes generate more revenue and garner higher TV ratings but get paid less simply because they are women,” said Molly Levinson, spokeswoman for the USWNT players in their equal pay lawsuit.

The next #MeToo?

The two sides agreed to mediate the suit after the tournament is over. With an outpouring of support from businesses and sponsors, a ticker-tape parade in New York City and an “Equal Pay” soccer chant in the closing moments of the match, the USWNT seems poised for another win. This could inspire other women outside of soccer as well. The #MeToo movement changed the rules for acceptable workplace behavior; the USWNT now seems ready to inspire others to ask for equal pay for whatever work they do.