MLS Ends Refs Lockout With Record Seven-Year Labor Deal

MLS Ends Refs Lockout With Record Seven-Year Labor Deal

The Professional Soccer Referees Association (PSRA), the labor union representing officials in Major League Soccer (MLS), ended the month-long lockout after its members ratified the new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the Professional Referee Organization (PRO).

The agreement, covering the next seven years from 2024 through the end of the 2030 season, represents the longest CBA for match officials in MLS history. The referees will return to officiate MLS games this Saturday, March 30 after more than a month of the league using replacement refs.

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A tentative agreement was reached last week, according to MLS. Monday night, 93 of 97 eligible PSRA members participated in the new CBA process, with 72 members voting “yes,” Peter Manikowski, president and lead negotiator for PSRA, said via text.

“Labor is strong when workers stand together,” Manikowski said. “And that is what we did with other referees and workers from across North America.”

The new CBA will provide an opportunity to renegotiate pay, and it will provide retroactive pay for January and part of February, but there will be no retroactive pay for the lockout period.

The Athletic was the first to report the CBA ratification.

PRO, a joint venture between the U.S. Soccer Federation and MLS, was created in 2012 to manage referee programs in professional soccer leagues in the U.S. and Canada.

The previous CBA with the league expired on Jan. 15. A week later, the PSRA membership gave its leadership the authority to authorize a potential strike. During negotiations, the two sides twice agreed to extend the terms of the old CBA, and a tentative agreement was reached on Feb. 14. The lockout started at the beginning of the 2024 season when PRO locked out MLS referees after 96% of PSRA members rejected that tentative labor pact.

PSRA members also rejected MLS/PRO’s offer, which would have kept travel benefits for the nearly 500 regular season matches each year mostly unchanged from five years ago. They also claimed the offer did not provide a proper health care plan or cost-effective benefits to 70 of the officials.

According to PSRA, MLS referees on the high end of the wage scale made $90,000 base salary and $1,300 per match under the old CBA, the union told Sportico last month, comparing it to the $108,000 (€100,000) base per season and $5,400 (€5,000) per match that officials make in Germany. PSRA told Sportico that under the new CBA, the guaranteed pay…

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