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Threat of strike looms over AFL

Jerry DiPaola
| Friday, May 25, 2012, 10:28 p.m.

Arena Football League players will strike before the end of the season if the league and players union can't agree on a long-term or interim collective bargaining agreement, AFL Players Union executive director Ivan F. Soto said Friday.

“Without an interim agreement very soon, (a) work stoppage is definite,” Soto said.

Soto refused to set a timetable for a work stoppage but said it won't occur this weekend.

“But I can't say past this weekend,” Soto said. “The closer to the end of the season we go, the less leverage a work stoppage would have.”

Including this weekend's schedule, there are nine weeks remaining in the regular season.

AFL commissioner Jerry Kurz said a strike “would be a shame.”

“I thought we had been negotiating in good faith,” Kurz said. “I don't count (a strike threat) as very professional.”

The league and union have exchanged contract proposals, but Soto said the league is offering a raise to $500 from $400 per player per game, with the $1,275 starting quarterback bonus remaining the same.

The union is seeking $625 per player per game, with a $1,375 quarterback bonus, Soto said.

“We don't want a work stoppage,” Soto said, “but the league has given us a take-it-or-leave-it offer that is about the same as Week 1.”

Said Kurz: “We offered a 25 percent increase at the beginning of the season on an interim agreement while we continued to negotiate, and I feel bad (that it was rejected) because that's money the players could have had.”

Power co-owner Matt Shaner had no comment.

The league's labor problems reached a critical juncture March 9 in Orlando, Fla., where the Power were scheduled to open the season against the Orlando Predators.

Worried about a strike threat, Shaner fired the entire team two hours before the game. He welcomed back many players before kickoff, but the game was played with replacement players.

After the game, the sides continued to negotiate without success.

“We had a face-to-face meeting April 16 that I thought went well, well enough that we were actually going to make some progress,” Soto said. “But that didn't happen. They seemed more intent on working on Kurz's contract than an interim agreement with the players.”

Kurz signed a five-year contract extension May 7.

Power quarterback Bill Stull said he had not heard of plans for a strike.

“We are really just trying to win football games and take care of our own jobs,” he said.

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

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