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The N.F.L. filed an unfair labor practice charge against the players' union Monday, alleging that the union has failed to bargain in good faith because, the league said, it plans to decertify.The Fifth DownThe union sought approval from players to decertify -- players from each team voted during the season to authorize the union to dissolve if necessary -- but has not said whether it planned to go through with decertification if a new labor deal was not reached by the March 3 expiration. If the union decertifies, it essentially puts itself out of business as a negotiating body for players."The players didn't walk out and the players can't lock out," the union said in a statement responding to the filing. "Players want a fair, new and long-term deal. We have offered proposals and solutions on every issue the owners have raised. This claim has absolutely no merit."The filing by the N.F.L., which was expected by the union, is a procedural move intended to prevent decertification. The N.F.L. claims that the union is engaging in "surface bargaining" and tactics designed to avoid reaching an agreement before the collective bargaining agreement expires so that it can file antitrust litigation against the league to try to block a lockout.In the filing, the league asked the National Labor Relations Board to order the union to bargain in good faith. Calls to the board's spokeswoman Monday were not returned, and it is unclear how and when the case will be resolved.Among the tactics the N.F.L. alleges the union has used: the failure to schedule negotiating sessions, a failure to respond in a timely manner to proposals made by the owners and an insistence on disclosure of financial data that, the N.F.L. says in the complaint, the union has no legal right to. It refers to a possible decertification as a "ploy" and a "sham," calling it the same tactic the union used in 1989, when it decertified, only to later form again."The union's strategy amounts to an unlawful anticipatory refusal to bargain," the league said in its complaint.While relations between the two sides have become highly charged -- owners cut short planned negotiating sessions last week as the sides have sparred over everything from a rookie wage scale to the overriding issue of how revenue should be divided -- the move did not come as a surprise to the union, which had known about the league's intentions for some time.Also on Monday, the union held a conference call with agents to update them on negotiations. Although a boycott of the scouting combine in Indianapolis next week had been floated as a possible show of might by the union, it appears highly unlikely that prospects will be held out of the workouts attended by team personnel. Agents have offered little support for a boycott because of the risk that it could imperil their clients' draft positions.The union has also discussed with agents the possibility of keeping college prospects from participating in the public events that surround the draft in April. The draft will be held even if a lockout begins in March, and the league typically invites a handful of the top prospects to New York for public appearances.
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