Pro Women’s Hockey Players Announce New Union

The One Big Union fighting for equity and justice for all professional women's hockey players.

It’s Monday, May 20, and welcome to “The Labor Beat,” your weekly breakdown of the biggest stories from the world of collective bargaining and labor disputes in sports. Send tips, exclusives, or suggestions to [email protected] Follow us on Twitter at @grandstcentral and @al_neal_stl.

We all live in the spectacular shadow of organized greed. And as its power and influence grows—politically, socially, economically, our attention should turn to those most impacted by it. Right now, in the case of professional sports, it’s women’s hockey players.

Earlier this month over 200 women’s hockey players announced a labor boycott (#ForTheGame) of all North American games next season. The reason: sheer exhaustion with the status quo—low wages and zero benefits.

“We cannot make a sustainable living playing in the current state of the professional game…Having no health insurance and making as low as two thousand dollars a season means players can’t adequately train and prepare to play at the highest level,” read the players’ joint statement.

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It was a bold, earth-shaking move by the players, showing the effectiveness collective action can have in building cross-border solidarity-a lesson learned the hard way when Canadian auto workers split from the U.S. based United Auto Workers union due to lack of support during the Canadian sector’s fight with GM in ‘85.

And it too highlights their daily struggles; juggling one or more traditional jobs to make ends meet, while training for peak performance on the ice.

The organized boycott came together in less than a month and follows the unexpected fold of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League March 31, after 12 years of operation, leaving the NWHL the only professional women’s league.

The players’ decision also adds pressure on the NHL and NHL Players Association to play a larger role in women’s hockey. Aside from financial support, the NHL has stopped short of including the possibility of sponsoring its own women’s league.

Today, May 20, the birth of the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association, their “One Big Union” was announced.

“We are fortunate to be ambassadors of this beautiful game, and it is our responsibility to make sure the next generation of players have more opportunities than we had,” said Kendall Coyne Schofield, 2018 Team USA Olympic Gold Medal winner. “It’s time to stand together and work to create a viable league that will allow us to enjoy the benefits of our hard work.”

Articles of Incorporation for the PWHPA were filed Friday, May 17. 

The PWHPA’s union mission:

  • To promote, advance, and support a single viable professional women’s ice hockey league in North America that showcases the greatest product of women’s professional ice hockey in the world.
  • To provide a unified voice to players advocating for the creation of a sustainable league.
  • To collaborate with like-minded organizations to make hockey more inclusive for women today and for the girls of the next generation.

Of course, not all players will agree, and some might even do the unthinkable, crossing a boycott or picket line. Madison Parker broke from the #ForTheGame boycott and signed on for a fifth season with the Metropolitan Riveters—not something Rosie the Riveter would’ve likely done.

But Noora Räty, goaltender for the Finnish National Team, said it best. “This is about protecting ourselves, protecting our future, and making hockey a better place for women and girls.”

You can only fight organized greed with organized labor. And even without a signed collective bargaining agreement, real workplace changes can happen just by taking control of the narrative and acting like a union.

So, cheers to the PWHPA, and their fight for a better world of women’s hockey.

In Solidarity.

Full PWHPA statement below:

Al Neal
Al Nealhttp://www.peoplesworld.org
Al Neal is an award-winning columnist at Grandstand Central writing on politics, labor relations, and the general rabble-rousing in professional sports. He spent a decade working in the trade union movement with various locals across the country and currently serves as Dir. of Education and Advocacy for the St. Louis Workers’ Education Society.

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