Walker Zimmerman explained the lengthy process of Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBA) negotiations that resulted in the U.S. men’s and women’s national teams being paid equally.
In a first-of-its-kind deal in world football, players from each team will be paid the same playing bonuses and participation fees, and will share the amount of prize money from their respective World Cup performances.
However, reaching this point was not easy. From a leadership change on the men’s side to a women’s team still operating under the existing CBA, there were many hurdles to overcome for both sides.
Zimmerman was among the USMNT leaders who helped negotiate the line and sign the new deal. Playing exclusively with former USWNT defender Yael Averbuch West on 90minX Football Americana In the podcast, the Nashville center back talked about some of the hurdles he had to overcome along the way.
“I think what made it so interesting was just the turnover and timing of our expired CBA,” Zimmerman said. “Again, for those who aren’t listening, our CBA was at the end of 2018. As of January 1, 2019, we were playing under an overdue CBA while women still had to be under theirs, which I think has always made negotiations a bit difficult for US Soccer because in order to have equal pay, it was very difficult for them to determine the start and end times of these trades.
Yael Averbuch West welcomed the USMNT and Nashville SC Designated Player Walker Zimmerman on the latest edition of the 90 Minute Football Americana. As the World Cup approaches, the defender revealed what goes on behind the scenes at recent USMNT camps ahead of matches against Wales and England in Qatar. Zimmerman also spoke about the revolutionary CBA negotiated by the US national teams and US Soccer, setting out the USMNT’s perspective as the historic procedure unraveled.Subscribe to the series here.
“Another difficult point, I think, for the male side is staff turnover. We had a board of directors that worked through 2018 and it included a lot of veterans who had been in the job for many years who were negotiating for this CBA and when 2018 happened there was a lot of turnover in the player pool, a lot of new people trying to move up. Then I guess there’s just more continuity with the players who are regularly called out with women than they are with men. “
For men, Zimmerman stresses that expanding the previously small leadership council is key to expanding the “discussion” about CBA.
However, negotiations for a new men’s contract still fell through last June – a moment that, ironically, opened up the possibility of agreeing a joint contract with the women’s team.
“Probably in 2019 or 2020, we realized that we need to restructure our leadership and the way we work,” Zimmerman explained. “We had five members on the governing board and it was almost strictly five members who were always negotiating and talking to our lawyers more regularly. Then probably in 2020, 2021 when we started to negotiate with the federation, we expanded that group of leaders to probably 12 or 13 players. I became part of this expanded group, probably from 2020.
“It just allowed more talk, more participation from the various players. Then, as we got closer and almost reached a deal in June 2021, it ended in failure. From that point on, I think everything has moved on to understanding, well, it will be better to agree on a joint CBA with men and women and bring all parties to the same table.
Given that the USMNT has historically received more prize money than the USWNT despite having performed worse overall in major tournaments, there are those who feel that the male side settles for equal pay as a “sacrifice”.
But Zimmerman insists that wasn’t the point, but that it was “interesting” to help his comrades in a win-win scenario.
“I don’t think it was necessarily seen as a victim,” he said. “I think we looked at the CBA itself and realized that we were going to be one of the highest paid international teams in the world, and don’t even talk about the women’s team as the men’s team.
“The fact that it’s a level playing field with women doesn’t mean we’re losing money, we’re still making a profit. The beauty of this is that the women now also get a lot more extra income from where they’ve been and it’s all equal now, which is really interesting for both teams. We were flustered and flustered because I think it would be a sacrifice if we looked at our overdue CBA and then went back.
“I think what we ended up thinking was, ‘Look, this is a great deal for both teams. What a great opportunity to do something historic, rise to the top and become the first federation.” [the] the first male and female parties agreed to absolutely equal pay.”