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Five USWNT players file wage discrimination claim

After this weekend, the U.S. players will be gone from NWSL until after the Olympics.  (Photo Copyright Patricia Giobetti for The Equalizer)

Five of the most prominent United States women’s national team players have filed a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission accusing U.S. Soccer of wage discrimination in the latest act of a labor dispute which escalated earlier this year.

Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn and Hope Solo are represented in the claim, which lawyers say was filed on Thursday. The players say they represent the interests of the entire U.S. women’s national team, which won the World Cup nine months ago. The group accuses U.S. Soccer of paying the women four times less than the men.

Thursday’s news comes after the United States Women’s National Team Players Association lawyer Rich Nichiols and the U.S. Soccer federation traded public barbs in previous months regarding whether or not a collective bargaining agreement even exists between the USWNTPA and the federation. U.S. Soccer argues that a memorandum of understanding is in place from 2013 and lasts through December, but U.S. players refute that.

“The reason the players have filed is because the USSF has made it clear that they will not consider equal pay [with the U.S. men] in the negotiations for a new agreement,” the players’ lawyer, Jeffrey Kessler, said. “So whether or not there’s an existing agreement, they won’t ever agree to make a change to give us the right salary. And the players have been very patient and have concluded they have to bring a case.”

U.S. Soccer responded Thursday with the following statement:

“We understand the Women’s National Team Players Association is filing a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against U.S. Soccer. While we have not seen this complaint and can’t comment on the specifics of it, we are disappointed about this action. We have been a world leader in women’s soccer and are proud of the commitment we have made to building the women’s game in the United States over the past 30 years.”

Grass-only playing surfaces and better travel accommodations remain among the most contentious issues for the U.S. women in CBA negotiations. U.S. players led the charge against FIFA to have the 2015 World Cup moved from artificial turf to natural grass, an effort which ultimately failed but did raise significant attention to the players’ battles for equal treatment from their federation and international governing body. The U.S. women boycotted a match scheduled to be played in Honolulu, Hawaii, in December less the 24 hours before the match was scheduled to kick off, a move which served as a precursor to the current labor negotiations.

“Recently, it has become clear that the Federation has no intention of providing us equal pay for equal work,” Rapinoe said.

According to Kessler’s law firm, Winston & Strawn LLP, the EEOC conducts an independent investigation, ultimately issues its findings and, if warranted, seeks relief on behalf of the complainants.

Asked on NBC’s Today show if players would strike ahead of the Olympics, the players did not specifically answer the question.

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