Women’s Soccer Success Highlights Need for Equal Pay
By John Winer
July 25, 2019
After an astonishing 2-0 win over the Netherlands in the 2019 Women’s World Cup championship game, the U.S. women’s national team continues fighting for equal pay, as the issue takes center stage in the legal arena.
As U.S. players hugged and celebrated their hard-earned victory over a tough Dutch team, chants of “equal pay” bubbled up from the stands. There was booing too — for members of FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, which reportedly will pay the U.S. women a $4 million bonus, compared with the $38 million paid to last year’s World Cup winner. The 28 players on the U.S. women’s national team sued the soccer federation in March, alleging that they are paid less than their male counterparts in the U.S. men’s national team even though they have won more games and bring in more revenue.
“Often, in terms of a settlement, it’s the things outside of the actual lawsuit itself that are important,” I said in the Los Angeles Daily Journal. “The whole country is behind them.”
The U.S. women’s national soccer team is without a doubt dominating on an international stage, and the men’s national soccer team is not. The U.S. men have never won a World Cup and did not qualify for the tournament last year. The women have won four times since the Women’s World Cup was founded in 1991. The question now is whether their success will translate into the women finally getting the pay they have been fighting for.
From chants of “Equal Pay!” in the stands of Stade de Lyon to dramatic wins against host team France and an undefeated Netherlands squad, the women’s national team head into mediation on a wave of heightened public sentiment, Winer said.
The USWNT and the Federation agreed to mediation in June before the start of the 2019 Women’s World Cup, according to the news reports. The mediation is set to begin following the Tournament. The suit alleges the federation violated both the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 “by paying them less than members of the men’s team for substantially equal pay and by denying them at least equal playing, training, and travel conditions.” The soccer federation agrees that the men’s and women’s teams are not paid the same but has said it’s impossible to compare the teams because their pay structures are so different.
As I told the Daily Journal, “I think it certainly increases the argument that the women’s team should be paid as much, if not more than, the men’s team.” I also added that “this is one of the few times in a case like this where you can demonstrate that the women are making more money than the men for the federation.”
“The soccer federation simply has to settle because they’ll get terrible publicity if they don’t,” I added.
According to the suit, the women’s team claims they make as little as 38% of what men do for winning non-tournament games called “friendlies.” If each team won 20 friendlies a year, women players would earn a maximum $4,950 per games while the men earned $13,166 per game, according to the Daily Journal.
With the world’s attention on the champions, that wave of support will not be lost as the disparity between what the women make versus the men is a cry for correction by the lawyers dealing with this lawsuit.
John Winer is the founding partner of Winer Burritt & Tillis, LLP. His practice specializes in sexual abuse, workplace sexual harassment and gender discrimination. Mr. Winer has litigated many cases against California colleges and is currently handling a dozen cases against California institutions of higher education including UC Berkeley, USC, UC Riverside, UC Irvine and UC Davis. His sexual harassment lawsuit against the dean of the UC Berkeley Law School garnered national attention.