Mediation efforts between the U.S. women's national team and the United States Soccer Federation broke down on Wednesday as the two sides tried to reach an agreement over their on-going dispute over equal pay.
"We entered this week's mediation with representatives of USSF full of hope," Molly Levinson, spokesperson for the players, said in the statement. "Today we must conclude these meetings sorely disappointed in the Federation's determination to perpetuate fundamentally discriminatory workplace conditions and behavior.
"It is clear that USSF, including its Board of Directors and President Carlos Cordeiro, fully intend to continue to compensate women players less than men. They will not succeed. We want all of our fans, sponsors, peers around the world, and women everywhere to know we are undaunted and will eagerly look forward to a jury trial."
U.S. Soccer said in a statement: "We have said numerous times that our goal is to find a resolution, and during mediation we had hoped we would be able to address the issues in a respectful manner and reach an agreement. Unfortunately, instead of allowing mediation to proceed in a considerate manner, plaintiffs' counsel took an aggressive and ultimately unproductive approach that follows months of presenting misleading information to the public in an effort to perpetuate confusion.
"We always know there is more we can do. We value our players and have continually shown that, by providing them with compensation and support that exceeds any other women's team in the world. Despite inflammatory statements from their spokesperson, which are intended to paint our actions inaccurately and unfairly, we are undaunted in our efforts to continue discussions in good faith."
No new mediation sessions are scheduled ESPN reported.
On NBC's "Today" show star Megan Rapinoe said: "We're always open to hearing that conversation if they're ready to have it. That's the only federation we can play for. ... But at any point if they want to have a serious conversation and are willing to not only talk about paying us equally and valuing us in that way, but actually doing it and showing us that they'll do it, our ears are always open.
"I don't think anybody wants to go to litigation. But with that said, we're very confident in our case."
Rapinoe reiterated on the show that the team firmly believes it should receive the same pay as the men.
Politico reported that the federation had hired two Washington lobbying firms to argue against claims the women are paid less than the men.
At the end of July, Cordeiro issued a statement that included a fact-check sheet showing the women were paid far more than the men were in the past decade.
— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) August 15, 2019
According to Yahoo.com, Cordeiro mentioned that in the past decade the women were paid $34.1 million in salary and bonuses compared to the men, who were paid $26.4 million. That prompted a response from the U.S. men’s national team, which called out the weaknesses of Cordeiro’s statement and charged him and the U.S. federation of focusing on profits instead of the growth of the sport.
In their suit, filed on March 8 in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, the women's players accused the federation of “institutionalized gender discrimination.”
The team, one of the United States’ most successful competitors across international sport, claims the governing body for U.S. soccer discriminated against the players via their paychecks, how and where they played, how they trained and coached, received medical care and traveled to matches.
U.S. Soccer stars Megan Rapinoe and Christen Press are gearing up to take the fight for equal pay to the courtroom. Mediation talks between @USSoccer and the @USWNT broke down yesterday after just one day.
— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) August 15, 2019
The Wall Street Journal reported that lawyers for the women contacted the U.S. Soccer Federation after the World Cup began on June 7 about the potential for mediation. A spokesman for U.S. Soccer told the Journal: "We look forward to everyone returning their focus to the efforts on the field as we aim to win another title."
The U.S. team’s lawsuit is similar to the actions of the U.S. women’s hockey team before the 2018 Winter Olympics when the team threatened not to participate in the 2017 International Ice Hockey Federation world championships because of unequal treatment. With help from the NHL, the parties reached a resolution on the pay gap between the women’s hockey team and the men’s reached a negotiated settlement. The women’s hockey team, much like the women’s soccer team, displayed sustained success in international competition, winning three straight IIHF world championships and two Olympic gold medals, three silvers and one bronze since the sport was introduced in the games in 1998. The team had threatened not to participate in last year’s Winter Olympics in South Korea if the salary issue was not resolved.
Updated statement from US Soccer on mediation talks with USWNT players breaking down: pic.twitter.com/F7qFsqTcx0
— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) August 15, 2019
That resolution opened the doors to the team competing and winning their first gold medal since 1998, beating archrival Canada.
According to the New York Times, the American soccer players have requested class action status and are seeking to represent anyone who played for the team since Feb. 4, 2015.
The suit alleges violations of the Equal Pay Act and violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Negotiations break down between world cup champs #USWNT and the U.S. Soccer Federation over equal pay talks. @mpinoe and @ChristenPress speak out to @arobach. https://t.co/7RW7r32q9c pic.twitter.com/AZOCQS6J4D
— Good Morning America (@GMA) August 15, 2019
“Despite the fact that these female and male players are called upon to perform the same job responsibilities on their teams and participate in international competitions for their single common employer, the USSF, the female players have been consistently paid less money than their male counterparts,” the suit said. “This is true even though their performance has been superior to that of the male players – with the female players, in contrast to male players, becoming world champions.”
While the America women have won four of the eight Women’s World Cups played, the highest finish for the U.S. men’s national team in the World Cup’s nearly 90-year history of the men’s event was 2002, when the team reached the quarterfinals.. The U.S. men did not qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
Both the men’s and women’s teams have separate collective bargaining agreements with U.S. Soccer, the NYT reported, with different payment structures. The men receive higher bonuses when they play for the U.S., but are paid only when they make the team. The women receive guaranteed salaries but with smaller match bonuses.
However, the multimillion dollar bonuses the teams receive from FIFA for participating in the World Cup are enormous – there is a pool of $400 million for the 32 men’s teams versus $30 million for the 24 women’s teams in the tournament.
The USWNT nearly went on strike before the 2016 Rio Olympic Games over pay and reached a contentious new collective bargaining agreement. Five players – including Hope Solo, Carli Lloyd, Becky Sauerbrunn, Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe – filed a federal complaint in 2016 accusing US Soccer of wage discrimination. The lack of resolution on that case led to this filing, the NYT reported.