I haven't written much about the MLS CBA negotiations, but with Mark Abbott and Bob Foose both breaking the silence on labor negotiations, there's finally something to talk about. Unfortunately, it's not what we wanted to hear.
In fact, given the rancor delivered by the players union, you have to think that the a new CBA is not the sure-fire sitter many of us were led to believe only weeks ago. And this can only mean one thing: things are getting bad. Positions are shifting. Texts aren't followed by LOLs any more.
I can only speculate how it turned sour so suddenly. I (nor any other media) aren't privy to the discussions, and with limited briefings made by Abbott, Foose, and a few player reps (Jimmy Conrad and Pat Onstad), all we have is what each side is telling us. Which is fine. There's only one problem: we're hearing very different things.
So what can be done to bridge the sides? The answer, to me at least, is simple: hire a mediator.
Now, I'm not saying they haven't already tried this. Given the limited comment provided (up until recently, of course) by either party, there hasn't been any evidence to suggest that one has been employed. Then again, I could be very wrong to presume that CBAs aren't negotiated without one. I don't know.
But I do know that back in 1994, when MLB owners and MLBPA went on strike, federal mediators HAD to be brought in to bring the sides together (which leads me to believe mediation wasn't seriously considered prior to). Although they failed to do so - nothing gives you the warm and fuzzies quite like federally-appointed assistance - the situation illuminated the point that a neutral party was necessary. Each party's lawyers can only do so much negotiating.
However, a fair-minded, non-affiliated individual will listen to each side's position. He/she will act as a sounding board, ask what each side is willing to concede, and based on his/her extensive knowledge pertaining to labor negotiations, illustrate what each side can realistically expect to get. An appointment of such a mediator is almost always sign of good faith. It tells the other side, "listen, we have our differences. But these differences can be resolved. Why don't we see if we can have someone help us out?"
There's little question in my mind that if indeed the owners and the union were close last month, and if they are equally sincere about resolving this thing, that a mutually-agreeable mediator would get this dispute resolved in a day. Yes. A single day.
MLS? Players union? What are you waiting for?