The Arena Football League Players Union will join the AFL-CIO after its Board of Player Representatives voted unanimously to affiliate with the 56 unions and 12.5 million members of the labor federation. The AFLPU, which began operations in 1987, now has 14 teams and is looking to expand into China. The union represents some 350 players, more than 90% of the league's players.
Ivan F. Soto, executive director of the players' union, explained the move:
It was just a natural fit for us. With the rapid growth of the league we're starting to see, we felt it was good to align ourselves with an organization that can help us domestically and internationally....We're happy to have the backbone of the AFL-CIO behind us. That's what solidarity is about—trying to grow the pie for everybody, especially the players, the labor.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka welcomed the players:
The labor movement is stronger when all workers—from nurses in California to teachers in New York or arena football players across the country—speak with a collective voice. We are excited to welcome the AFLPU into America’s labor movement and look forward to working together to improve the lives of all working people.
Soto added that arena football is a dangerous sport and that the players "don't earn the kind of compensation that NFL players do." Joining the AFL-CIO, he said, was a way to make sure that games are played with properly trained union players with sufficient protections. "You can't just throw 20 guys out there in an arena that don't have a lot of experience. Someone could get killed."
He noted that the resources of the AFL-CIO would be valuable to the players:
This partnership will help grow the AFLPU and level the playing field for players as our league continues to grow. The AFL-CIO’s resources will provide our athletes with training, education and many other benefits that will help us achieve our goal: a workplace that treats athletes fairly and puts player safety first.