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Law School Case Brief

Powell v. Nat'l Football League - 678 F. Supp. 777 (D. Minn. 1988)


 The spirit of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and the more persuasive authorities stand for the proposition that, even after expiration of a collective bargaining contract, an employer is under an obligation to bargain with the union before he may permissibly make any unilateral change in those terms and conditions of employment comprising mandatory bargaining subjects within the meaning of § 8(d) of the NLRA. The governing principle is that until impasse is reached, an employer is not free unilaterally to change the essential provisions of an expired collective bargaining agreement


Marvin Powell et al. (“Powell”) filed a case against the National Football League (“NFL”) for antitrust violations. Powell alleged that restrictions in players' contracts regarding free agency depressed player salaries and restricted player movement between teams. In seeking summary judgment, Powell argued that because the parties' collective bargaining agreement had expired, no labor exemption from the antitrust laws shielded the player restraints from antitrust scrutiny. The NFL argued that the labor law "survival" doctrine provided the restraints continued protection from the antitrust laws for an indefinite period following expiration of the collective bargaining agreement.


Should Powell’s motion for summary judgment be granted?




In denying summary judgment, the Court held that the labor exemption insulated the restraints during the existence of the collective bargaining agreement, as the agreement provided that its provisions were the product of bona fide, arm's-length bargaining. In accommodating the antitrust policy of promoting free competition with the labor law obligation of requiring the parties to maintain the status quo, the Court then held that the nonstatutory labor exemption survived the expiration of the agreement. Finally, the Court determined that the labor exemption would survive until the parties reached an impasse.

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