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Arena league, players union reach labor agreement

Jerry DiPaola
| Sunday, June 17, 2012, 11:24 p.m.
The Power's Oderick Turner beats Milwaukee's Jamar Love for a first-quarter touchdown Saturday night at Consol Energy Center. (Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review)
The Power's Oderick Turner beats Milwaukee's Jamar Love for a first-quarter touchdown Saturday night at Consol Energy Center. (Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review)

Negotiators for the Arena Football League and its players union reached agreement on a six-year contract Sunday night and all 17 team owners voted to accept it, averting a lockout and achieving labor peace after nearly a year of acrimony.

“I'm excited about it,” Power co-owner Matt Shaner said. “It means long-term stability. Having games canceled and players striking here or there, that is over with now. We can focus on what we should be, which is winning games and marketing our team here in Pittsburgh. We've done all we could for the players, and the players agree. And we didn't bankrupt the league.”

AFL Players Union executive director Ivan F. Soto called it a “historic deal.” It marks the AFL's first collective bargaining agreement with its players since it suspended play for a season in 2009 to get its finances together.

“It went down to the wire, but we got it done,” Soto said. “It's a very good deal — a fair deal, a big deal, a comprehensive deal. There was give and take on both sides, but the players will be very happy. We are confident we will receive 100 percent approval (from the players).”

Both sides are expected to sign the deal Wednesday.

The league had threatened to impose a lockout at 6 p.m. yesterday and use replacement players for the rest of the season if weekend talks did not result in a settlement. AFL commissioner Jerry Kurz and a committee of owners met with Soto throughout the weekend in Chicago in an attempt to finalize the agreement.

Soto declined to comment on terms of the deal, citing “a gag order.” But previous proposals by both sides called for game-day salaries to more than double to about $800 per player. Plus, there will be a ban on strikes and lockouts.

The agreement ends a three-month period of labor discord that included the league using replacement players March 9 in the Power's season opener in Orlando, Fla. Cleveland Gladiators players went on strike June 8, forcing them to forfeit a game to the Power.

“I wish there wasn't as much pain this season,” Orlando Predators owner Brett Bouchy told the Orlando Sentinel. “I wish I could turn back the clock and change the events of March 9.”

But he added, “To get this done, this will be the best Father's Day present I could ever ask for.”

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can reached at jdipaola@tribweb.com or 412-320-7997.

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