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United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
November 17, 1994, Argued ; March 21, 1995, Decided
Nos. 93-7165, et al. and consolidated case No. 94-7071
[*1044] EDWARDS, Chief Judge: This case poses a conflict between the policies underlying federal labor law and antitrust law in the context of a labor dispute involving professional football. In the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1 (Supp. II 1990), enacted in 1890, Congress proscribed certain practices and agreements inimical [**2] to free trade as a means "to promote the national interest in a competitive economy." Mitsubishi Motors Corp. v. Soler Chrysler-Plymouth, Inc., 473 U.S. 614, 635, 87 L. Ed. 2d 444, 105 S. Ct. 3346 (1985) (internal quotations omitted). There was no unified federal labor policy at the time of the passage of the Sherman Act. However, over fifty years later, when Congress passed the National Labor Relations Act ("NLRA"), 29 U.S.C. § 151 et seq. (1988), "it set down a federal labor [*1045] policy … plainly meant to do more than simply alter the prevailing substantive law. It sought as well to restructure fundamentally the processes for effectuating that policy, deliberately placing the responsibility for applying and developing this comprehensive legal system in the hands of an expert administrative body [the National Labor Relations Board ("NLRB") ] rather than the federalized judicial system." Amalgamated Ass'n of Street, Elec. Ry. & Motor Coach Employees v. Lockridge, 403 U.S. 274, 288, 29 L. Ed. 2d 473, 91 S. Ct. 1909 (1971). A principal tenet of this federal labor policy is that ] settlement of collective bargaining disputes should be achieved by "subjecting labor-management controversies to the mediatory influence of negotiation," not litigation. [**3] Fibreboard Paper Prods. Corp. v. NLRB, 379 U.S. 203, 211, 13 L. Ed. 2d 233, 85 S. Ct. 398 (1964). In this case, we must determine whether the nation's labor laws or antitrust policy control where, after bargaining in good faith to a point of impasse, an employer group takes unilateral action to impose a fixed salary for a category of employees as an otherwise lawful step in the collective bargaining process established by the NLRA.
In 1989, the 28 clubs of the National Football League ("NFL") were engaged in collective bargaining with the NFL Players Association ("NFLPA"), the players' collective bargaining representative. During the course of bargaining, the NFL proposed to pay a fixed salary of $ 1,000 per week to any player assigned to newly formed practice squads. Had the parties been able to reach a settlement on this issue, they could have concluded an agreement establishing $ 1,000 per week as the salary for practice squad players, and this agreement would have posed no legal problems under the federal labor or antitrust laws. Such was not to be the case, however, for the parties bargained to impasse over the issue, after which the clubs unilaterally imposed the fixed salary for the 1989 NFL season. In [**4] response to the clubs' action, nine players who had been assigned to practice squads filed this class action antitrust lawsuit against the clubs and the NFL in the District Court, alleging that the fixed salary constituted an unreasonable restraint of trade in violation of the Sherman Act. During four years of ensuing litigation, the District Court held that the defendants' agreement on a fixed salary violated the Sherman Act, and, after a trial to determine damages, entered a judgment against the clubs and the NFL in the amount of $ 30,349,642, and enjoined them from ever again setting a uniform salary for any class of players.
Full case includes Shepard's, Headnotes, Legal Analytics from Lex Machina, and more.
50 F.3d 1041 *; 1995 U.S. App. LEXIS 5549 **; 311 U.S. App. D.C. 89; 148 L.R.R.M. 2769; 131 Lab. Cas. (CCH) P11,587; 1995-1 Trade Cas. (CCH) P70,933
ANTONY BROWN; JAMES BISHOP; JOHN BUDDENBERG; GARY COUCH; CRAIG DAVIS; RICKY ANDREWS; THOM KAUMEYER; WESLEY PRITCHETT; AND JOHN SIMPSON, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF ALL CLASS MEMBERS, APPELLEES v. PRO FOOTBALL, INC., D/B/A WASHINGTON REDSKINS; THE FIVE SMITHS, INC., D/B/A ATLANTA FALCONS; BUFFALO BILLS, INC., D/B/A BUFFALO BILLS; CHICAGO BEARS FOOTBALL CLUB, INC., D/B/A CHICAGO BEARS; CINCINNATI BENGALS, INC., D/B/A CINCINNATI BENGALS; CLEVELAND BROWNS, INC., D/B/A CLEVELAND BROWNS; DALLAS COWBOYS FOOTBALL CLUB, LTD., D/B/A DALLAS COWBOYS; PDB SPORTS, LTD., D/B/A DENVER BRONCOS; THE DETROIT LIONS, INC., D/B/A DETROIT LIONS; GREEN BAY PACKERS, INC., D/B/A GREEN BAY PACKERS; HOUSTON OILERS, INC., D/B/A HOUSTON OILERS; INDIANAPOLIS COLTS, INC., D/B/A INDIANAPOLIS COLTS; KANSAS CITY CHIEFS FOOTBALL CLUB, INC., D/B/A KANSAS CITY CHIEFS; THE LOS ANGELES RAIDERS, LTD., D/B/A LOS ANGELES RAIDERS; LOS ANGELES RAMS FOOTBALL COMPANY, INC., D/B/A LOS ANGELES RAMS; MIAMI DOLPHINS, LTD., D/B/A MIAMI DOLPHINS; MINNESOTA VIKINGS FOOTBALL CLUB, INC., D/B/A MINNESOTA VIKINGS; KMS PATRIOTS, L.P., D/B/A NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS; THE NEW ORLEANS LOUISIANA SAINTS LIMITED PARTNERSHIP, D/B/A NEW ORLEANS SAINTS; NEW YORK FOOTBALL GIANTS, INC., D/B/A NEW YORK GIANTS; NEW YORK JETS FOOTBALL CLUB, INC., D/B/A NEW YORK JETS; THE PHILADELPHIA EAGLES FOOTBALL CLUB, INC., D/B/A PHILADELPHIA EAGLES; B & B HOLDINGS, INC., D/B/A PHOENIX CARDINALS; PITTSBURGH STEELERS SPORTS, INC., D/B/A PITTSBURGH STEELERS; THE CHARGERS FOOTBALL COMPANY, D/B/A SAN DIEGO CHARGERS; THE SAN FRANCISCO FORTY-NINERS, LTD., D/B/A SAN FRANCISCO FORTY-NINERS; THE SEATTLE PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL CLUB, D/B/A SEATTLE SEAHAWKS; TAMPA BAY AREA NFL FOOTBALL, INC., D/B/A TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS, INC.; AND NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE, APPELLANTS and consolidated case No. 94-7071
Subsequent History: [**1] Suggestion for Rehearing In Banc Denied (93-7165) June 12, 1995, Reported at: 1995 U.S. App. LEXIS 31077.
Rehearing Denied (93-7165) June 12, 1995, Reported at: 1995 U.S. App. LEXIS 31157.
Prior History: On Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. (No. 90cv01071).
exemption, bargaining, antitrust, players, collective bargaining, anti trust law, terms, unilaterally, employees, nonstatutory, labor market, impasse, multiemployer, Sherman Act, collective bargaining agreement, collective bargaining process, labor law, negotiations, Squad, Developmental, parties, fixed salary, markets, tactics, antitrust liability, shields, football, anticompetitive, athletes, salary
Business & Corporate Compliance, Labor & Employment Law, Collective Bargaining & Labor Relations, Duty to Bargain, Labor & Employment Law, Impasse Resolution, Antitrust & Trade Law, Regulated Industries, Sports, General Overview, Exemptions & Immunities, Labor, Statutory Exemptions, Sherman Act, Protected Activities, Civil Procedure, Appeals, Standards of Review, De Novo Review, Summary Judgment, Appellate Review, Standards of Review, Clayton Act, Scope, Contracts Law, Types of Contracts, Bilateral Contracts, Collectives & Cooperatives, Clayton Act, Scope, Exemptions, Remedies, Injunctions, Federal Preemption, Primacy of Labor Policy, Strikes & Work Stoppages, Nonstatutory Exemptions, Labor Arbitration, Discipline, Layoffs & Terminations, Right to Organize, Unfair Labor Practices, Employer Violations, Union Dues Violations, Wrongful Termination, Breach of Contract, Employer Handbooks, Monopolies & Monopolization, Conspiracy to Monopolize, Sherman Act, International Trade Law, Football, Enforcement of Bargaining Agreements