Saturday, April 9, 2016

Women’s Soccer - The Next Battleground for Pay Equity

On March 30th, The U.S. Women’s Soccer team filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) accusing the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) of wage discrimination on the basis of gender.  The athletes joined the fight for pay equity hot off their 2015 World Cup win, in which they received $7 million less than the men’s soccer team did for losing in round 16 in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. 

According to the USSF’s 2015 financial report, the women made about a quarter of what the men did, despite bringing in nearly $20 million more in revenue.  The EEOC also found that the women make $99,000 each if they win 20 games, the minimum number of games required of the team each year.  Conversely, the men make $100,000 each even if they lose all of those 20 games and receive bonuses of $5,000 to $17,000 for each game played beyond the minimum requirement.[1]

"We continue to be told we should be grateful just to have the opportunity to play professional soccer, to get paid for doing it,” said U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo on NBC Today. "We believe now the time is right because we believe it's our responsibility for women's sports and specifically for women's soccer to do whatever it takes to push for equal pay and equal rights."

The USSF has been pushing back, filing a lawsuit against the union representing the women’s team.  They are hoping the court will rule that the current collective bargaining agreement cannot be revisited until its expiration date, December 31, 2016.

In a recent Huffington Post article, Simmons College political science professor Leanne Doherty notes the potential impact of the women’s team’s courageous move.  She writes,

“The very idea that these women athletes, who are very public figures with strong domestic name recognition, have brought this case forward opens up a policy window that all pay equity activists can step through. The players themselves seem to recognize their power, describing it as their “duty” to call attention to pay inequity between men and women…. They are using their social capital for political power.”

If Doherty is right, we could see the women’s team win their lawsuit against the USSF and spark the momentum needed for the rest of the country to enforce equal pay in all professions.  As forward Alex Morgan understands, however, this is not simply about the pay.  "We want to play in top-notch, grass-only facilities like the U.S. men's national team," Morgan said. "We want to have equitable and comfortable travel accommodations, and we simply want equal treatment."

--Kathleen Melendy, MWPC Intern