The U.S. women's national soccer team (USWNT) confirmed new collective bargaining agreements with the men's team (USMNT) that have officially established equal pay. These CBAs were put into place Wednesday and solidified an equal pay agreement made in February between the men’s and women’s players' associations.
Some history: This is a fight that has been legally fought since 2016, when Hope Solo, Becky Sauerbrunn, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, and Carli Lloyd filed a discrimination claim with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, against the US Soccer Federation (USSF) over their unequal pay with the men's team. The EEOC investigation went on for almost three years until February 2019, when the women who filed the complaint received "right to sue" letters from the EEOC, which allowed them to file against USSF in court.
On March 8, 2019, the USWNT officially filed a lawsuit that claimed gender discrimination by USSF as shown by the unequal pay and working conditions of the men's and women's national teams. All 28 players that held contracts with the national team at that time were listed as plaintiffs. USSF maintained a position that they were not being discriminatory, and the disparities in pay were because of outside variables such as profit and budget.
After the USWNT won the 2019 World Cup, they attempted mediation with the federation, but failed. In early 2020, USSF court filings were made public, in which the federation argued that the women's team did not deserve equal pay because the women's side of the sport required less strength and skill, saying that "indisputable science" proved that the men's team "requires a higher level of skill." This was, understandably, not well-received, and the president of USSF at the time, Carlos Cordeiro, stepped down a few days later. Cindy Parlow Cone, a retired USWNT player, was voted the next president.
In May 2020, a judge officially dismissed the section of the team's suit regarding equal pay. The section of the lawsuit regarding unequal working conditions remained active. The team appealed this in July 2021, which worked out in the end, but it was described as a huge blow at the time.
An agreement was finally announced on February 22, 2022, just before the scheduled appeal date of March 7. The CBAs that were approved today finalize and formalize this agreement.
These CBAs, one for the USWNT and one for the USMNT, laid out conditions across a variety of topics: pay structures, back pay, equal playing conditions, and equal World Cup prize money.
The first issue is pay structures. Previously, contracted USWNT members were paid a base salary annually, which they requested in their 2005 CBA to ensure stability since women's soccer was so new at the time and there was not a strong professional domestic league. The USMNT was paid on a per-game basis, with bonuses for winning. Now, both teams operate on that latter structure, ensuring that they can truly be paid equally.
In the original lawsuit, the USWNT requested $66 million in back pay. In this settlement, they will be receiving $22 million.
Regarding playing conditions, the USSF affirms in these CBAs that they will provide the same amount of charter flights to both the men's and women's teams, as well as equal budgets for accommodation. They also say that the quality of field surfaces will be equal, and both teams will receive equal staffing.
Possible participation and performance prize money for the World Cups will now be pooled between the men's and women's national teams. The United States is the first country to implement this in its soccer program.
Reactions to the news of the ratification of these CBAs have been overwhelmingly positive, with USWNT player Midge Purce emphasizing the aspect of unity.
"I think what this CBA does is it finally creates that 'One Nation. One Team'" Purce said. "I think that it's really brought us together under that ideology that we've been chasing after for a really long time."
This fight has been ongoing since 2016 and has endured many bumps in the road. Parlow Cone reflected on the years-long battle for equal pay and looked toward the future of women's soccer.
"There were days that I didn't think we were going to get it across the line," Parlow Cone said. "But we are here, and I'm just so incredibly proud of what we have accomplished and what it is going to mean, not only for the game here in the U.S. but globally."
The ratification of these CBAs does not mean that the lawsuit is closed, but as both sides of the argument have come to an agreement, it should be expected that the dispute ends soon. Now, there is nothing to do but wait for the eventual decision of the court.