The United Football Players Association (UFPA) becomes affiliated with the United Steelworkers Union (USW)

One of the largest and most influential unions in the country, the United Steelworkers Union (USW)announced an affiliation with the United Football Players Association (UFPA).

The UFPA is a non-profit organization made up of football players with experience in the NFL, XFL, CFL, etc., representing professional athletes in alternative football leagues not covered by contracts like those of the NFL Players Association.

This affiliation will help the UFPA represent players by advocating for those facing pay issues and health issues. The USW will also help UFPA overcome difficulties with workers’ compensation policies and lobby for specific standards regarding practice facilities, travel arrangements and schedules. Additionally, both associations will demand transparency regarding player and agent salaries.

UFPA President and NFL, AAF and XFL alumni Kenneth Farrow II commented on the significance of the decision, saying:

“My experience of playing through injuries between surgeries and helping other players through multiple league bankruptcies has shown that we cannot rely on the league to provide our job security and financial stability. Joining a union to negotiate better treatment now is the single most important step we can take to raise our standard of living in the future.

And Farrow is definitely right, because there’s a reason these well-established leagues like the NFL and CFL have their official player unions.

Unlike the NFL, almost all of these alternative football leagues have no form of player association or player advocacy group. As a result, we have seen countless instances in the past where leagues have taken advantage of players or left them without any help when things fell apart.

For example, in 2019 the Alliance of American Football collapsed financially, leaving players without pay, some of whom were stranded in road towns. A similar situation would occur with the XFL in 2020, but this time the bankruptcy was caused by the global pandemic. In 2021, the Spring League (TSL) also caused all the controversy regarding how they treated players during their hub season (not to mention a lawsuit against TSL for $1.4 million in late payments) , and there have been many more cases.

The thing is, having an affiliation with the USW can be a very powerful thing. As a non-profit organization, the UFPA is not a real players’ union and is not authorized by the National Labor Relations Council to conduct collective bargaining or strike. However, the USW is an authorized labor union and already represents approximately 850,000 employees in a wide variety of occupations.

UFPA Vice President Nick Temple also commented on the affiliation, saying:

“We stand together and are taking action to address and improve our working conditions, including travel accommodations, the condition of training facilities, schedules and other concerns. Professional athletes deserve to be treated with dignity and respect at work by their employers, and the United Steelworkers have been empowering workers to fight for fairness and justice for generations.

Temple believes transparency around salaries and other areas of concern won’t just benefit players; he thinks it will also help those alternative leagues retain more of their players.

This affiliation comes just in time for the USFL Draft, which takes place Feb. 22-23, with approximately 360 players up for selection for the inaugural season.

The USFL’s first game kicks off April 16 in Birmingham, Alabama, featuring the New Jersey Generals and Birmingham Stallions.

Andrew B. Reiter