Players in Sacramento Republic’s league seek union status

As Sacramento Republic FC seeks admission to Major League Soccer, the club could soon be wrestling with another off-the-field issue: the possible unionization of its minor-league player roster.

A players’ group asked the United Soccer League, of which Republic FC is a member, for formal recognition Wednesday. If accepted, the USL Players Association would represent its members in contract talks and other matters.

Following a quiet, seasonlong unionization drive, the group persuaded 53 percent of the league’s players to sign authorization cards. If the league refuses to recognize the group as the players’ bargaining unit, the group plans to ask the National Labor Relations Board for a union election.

Players “found it necessary to have a body that represents the voice of the players, to make a contribution to the continuing development of the league,” said Ted Philipakos, a player agent in New York and organizer of the effort. He identified two players, Tyler Ruthven of Arizona United SC and Paolo DelPiccolo of the Charlotte Independence, as leaders of the campaign.

The Washington Post, which originally reported on the unionization effort, said above-average players in USL earn $2,000 a month. Philipakos said such an estimate “is in the ballpark” and added that some players “struggle to get through the month.” However, he said the players’ group hasn’t developed any contract demands.

Nicholas Murray, a spokesman for the 24-team league, declined comment. Republic FC officials couldn’t be reached for comment.

Philipakos wouldn’t say how much support the unionization effort has from Sacramento’s players.

Republic FC is arguably the league’s brightest success story, playing to constant sellouts at Bonney Field during its two years in USL. The club is considered a leading candidate to graduate to MLS status, although the major league hasn’t established an expansion timeline yet. MLS players are unionized and agreed to a new five-year contract in March just two days before the season began.

Dale Kasler: 916-321-1066, @dakasler

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