The Major League Soccer Players Union, also referred to as MLS Players Union or MLSPU, is the union of professional Major League Soccer players. The Players Union serves as the exclusive collective bargaining representative for all current players in MLS.
The Major League Soccer Players Union was formed in April 2003 after the conclusion of Fraser v. Major League Soccer. The founding members of the Players Union’s Executive Board included Landon Donovan, Tim Howard, Chris Klein, Alexi Lalas and Ben Olsen. After negotiating with MLS in 2003 and 2004, on December 1, 2004, the Players Union and MLS signed the first-ever collective bargaining agreement (CBA) covering MLS players. Prior to the CBA, the minimum salaries for players had never increased, players received no form of retirement benefits, and many players lacked basic health insurance. Among other things, the CBA increased minimum salaries, established a 401(k) plan with guaranteed contributions from MLS, and guaranteed that all players and their families will be provided with 100% fully paid health insurance benefits. In addition, the CBA provides for an independent arbitrator to hear disputes between MLS and the players. MLS and the Players Union also negotiated a substance abuse policy covering all players in the league, as well as a Group License Agreement.
The CBA ran through the 2009 season, and the labor agreement expired on January 31, 2010. Progress had been reported in negotiations with the players union, with the major issues reportedly player transfer and guaranteed contracts. The union had accused MLS of failing to abide by international regulations set down by governing body FIFA, but the league denies the charge. FIFA said they will not intervene in a labor dispute. The Union advised players to report to camp as planned. Reports had been conflicting about the actual possibility of a work stoppage. Both sides agreed to extend talks to February 12, and then extended then again to February 25, 2010. On March 20, 2010, MLS and MLSPU signed a new 5-year agreement.