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Monday, September 24, 2012

Congressional Responses to Selected Work Stoppages in Professional Sports

L. Elaine Halchin, Coordinator
Specialist in American National Government

Justin Murray
Information Research Specialist

Jon O. Shimabukuro
Legislative Attorney

Kathleen Ann Ruane
Legislative Attorney

Prior to the 2011 National Football League (NFL) lockout, developments in professional football’s labor-management relations had prompted questions regarding how, when, and in what manner a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) might be drafted. Interest in this matter included, on the part of some observers, questions about how Congress responded to previous work stoppages in professional sports. In attempting to address this particular question, this report examines congressional responses to the 1982 and 1987 work stoppages in the NFL. With the conclusion of the 2011 NFL lockout in July, this work stoppage is also included. Additionally, this report examines the 1994 Major League Baseball strike, which is useful considering the extent of congressional activity surrounding this strike.

Compared to the 1994 baseball strike, the 1982 and 1987 football strikes and the 2011 lockout did not garner much attention from Congress in terms of legislative measures and hearings. Three legislative measures were introduced in response to the 1982 strike; one each was introduced in response to the 1987 strike and the 2011 lockout. Members introduced or offered 22 legislative measures and held five hearings that were related to the baseball strike. With one exception (S.Res. 294, 100th Congress), none of these measures was approved by either house.

Members who introduced, or otherwise supported, legislative measures offered reasons for promoting congressional intervention. Their arguments touched on, for example, the economic impact of work stoppages, the role of baseball’s antitrust exemption in establishing a climate conducive to players’ strikes, previous congressional involvement in professional sports, and a responsibility to ensure the continuity of football (or baseball).

Disagreeing that congressional intervention was warranted, other Members offered several reasons why Congress ought not to intervene. For example, one Member suggested that repealing baseball’s antitrust exemption would alter the balance of power in professional baseball. Other Members believed that more pressing matters deserved Congress’s attention. At least one Member suggested that a particular bill, if enacted, would have the effect of favoring the players over the owners.

A summary of NFL labor-management history may be found in Appendix A. Appendix B provides an overview of key aspects of labor-management relations and sports, and Appendix C includes a discussion of antitrust exemptions applicable to professional sports.

Date of Report: September 17, 2012
Number of Pages: 46
Order Number: R41060
Price: $29.95

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