Updated: Jul 20, 2022
On Monday, players from the United States Football League (USFL) voted to form a union and partner with the United Steelworkers (USW) to protect their interests. The vote comes after the United Football Players Association (UFPA) spent months pushing for organized labor.
In April, shortly after the beginning of the current USFL season, the UFPA (established in 2020) began pushing for a union. As a part of their efforts, the UFPA partnered with the USW, and the USW petitioned the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to represent the players.
On June 6, the NLRB held a vote at the Sheraton Birmingham Hotel in Birmingham, Alabama, home to the USFL headquarters. The vote passed, and once the NLRB certifies the results, the newly-formed players union will work with the league to negotiate a new player contract. Notably, the league has not resisted the players’ attempts to unionize.
Current USFL players signed a two-year contract, which limits players to only signing with an NFL team after one year rather than other leagues, including the Canadian Football League (CFL) or the XFL, which will return in 2023.
Each player on an active roster is paid $4,500 per game for the 10-game season ($1,500 for players on a practice squad). Additionally, there is an $850 bonus per win and a $10,000 bonus for players on the USFL championship team. In total, a player on the active roster for the full season (including training camp) earns no less than $45,000, which can increase up to around $75,000.
Also, USFL contracts include provisions for discounted hotel housing during the season. However, the league only provides meals during mini-camp and training camp. At all other times, players must provide their own meals.
Other provisions include a health insurance plan and an education plan for tuition-free education through Strayer University and Capella University.
By forming a union, the players will aim to alter the current contracts. Due to the two-year term, the USFL restricts players’ ability to test the market. Notably, the XFL has released information on their contracts. According to the XFL, player salaries will be higher than the USFL’s, and contracts will include full housing and meal costs in-season. Thus, expect the USFL players union to push the league to align their contracts closer to the XFL’s contracts.
In addition, the USFL players union will likely push for expanded medical care to ensure player safety in and out of season.
Overall, this is a big step for the league and may ensure that the USFL can outlast other spring football leagues. At the same time, the players get an opportunity to come to the table and negotiate a new future.