The World Cup is always an exciting time; it offers us an opportunity to come together and watch nations compete to see who reigns supreme in the world’s most popular sport. I don’t want to brag, but I played soccer for 18 years, so I get extra excited for the World Cup. (Now, whether I played well is a whole other story, and that’s not the topic of this blog.)
Although this is the Men’s World Cup, issues regarding the disparate treatment of the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) linger in the background.
You might know that the USWNT is one of the best in the world, with the best record of any international women’s soccer team. In fact, the entire time it’s existed, the USWNT has never been ranked lower than second internationally. The team has won the Women’s World Cup four times (in 1991, 1999, 2015, and, most recently, in 2019), and also has four Olympic Gold Medals (1996, 2004, 2008, and 2012). In comparison, the U.S. Men’s National Team (USMNT) is currently ranked 16th internationally, and the highest it’s ever been is 4th. The U.S. Men’s Team has never won the World Cup or the Olympics, although to its credit, the team has won the CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football) Championship three times in a row.
However, despite the U.S. Women’s Team’s successes, they suffered from a staggering pay gap and differences between salary structures that were the subject of controversy for years. Most notably, the men were paid handsomely per game appearance, meaning that if they qualified and advanced in tournaments, they would get paid more. The women, on the other hand, were just paid straight salaries, and did not get credit for how far they consistently advanced in tournaments. And when they did win tournaments, the prize pools for women’s leagues are notoriously smaller.
However, in May of this year, the United States Soccer Federation, the United States Women’s National Team Players Association, and the United States National Soccer Team Players Association entered into a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) to finally offer equal pay for equal work. This CBA came on the heels of several USWNT stars, including Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan, reaching a $24 million settlement of their own claims against the U.S. Soccer Federation regarding the disparate pay between men and women.
The CBA ensures, amongst other things, that the Men and Women’s Teams will offer the same base pay with the same bonuses per appearances. Also, the teams will split commercial revenue share 50/50, meaning they share the revenue from ticket sales, sponsorships, and ads. Additionally, the teams will pool the prize money earned from their respective World Cup appearances. This is particularly topical because the men just won an estimated $13 million for finishing at the Knockout Stage in Qatar.
The story of soccer players in the United States is bittersweet: it took years of the women advocating for themselves to finally reach equality, even as the absolute best in their (literal) field. However, this Collective Bargaining Agreement is the first of its kind and has hopefully set a precedent between men and women athletes nationwide—maybe even beyond. It also shows the power of Collective Bargaining Agreements, and how much of a difference workers can make when they advocate together and for each other.
But you don’t have to be a gold medalist or a world-record setter to be worthy of equal pay. You don’t even need to be a part of a union. Federal law acknowledges that employees in the same workplace must be paid substantially the same for the same work, regardless of gender. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 provides protections for you in the workplace, and acknowledges various forms of compensation, not just salaries. Overtime pay, bonuses, insurance, vacation and holiday pay, benefits, and other costs covered by your employer must be equal amongst employees in similar positions, regardless of your gender identity.
If you suspect are being paid less than others in your workplace due to your gender, contact our talented Texas Employment Lawyers today.