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Protests Outside US Soccer HQ Show An Escalation Of The USWNT’s Equal Pay Fight

“It’s way past time for equal pay.”

Photo by Bridget Gordon

Representatives from several political advocacy groups, including UltraViolet and MoveOn, held a demonstration outside US Soccer headquarters earlier this morning in solidarity with the United States Women’s National Team’s campaign for equal pay.

About two dozen organizers— plus a contingent of local media— gathered outside Soccer House in Chicago’s South Loop to call attention to the USWNT’s ongoing dispute with their employers. It was an issue that remained front and center throughout the US’ World Cup run, in which they won their fourth championship.

Organizers spoke to the media before delivering paper copies of their signed petition demanding equal pay for the USWNT. Their message was simple: it’s time to pay up.

“Despite the team’s amazing success, they still make significantly less than the men,” said Susan Hildebrand, the National Field Director for UltraViolet. “It’s just not right. It’s not complicated, it’s just not right.”

Hildebrand told reporters that the pay disparity between the USWNT and their colleagues with the US Men’s National Team signal a “... disregard for the women’s team and their many fans of all genders, [...] in particular their young female fans.”

Maria Tchijov, Director for Strategic Growth for MoveOn, echoed those sentiments.

“Paying women less than men for the same work is unfair. Paying women less than men for demonstrably stronger results is unfair.”

Both Hildebrand and Tchijov told me that today’s demonstration reflects their respective organization’s ongoing work advocating for equal pay for people of all genders. While neither organization has had direct contact with individual players or the USWNT Players Association, they said today’s demonstration is an act of solidarity with them. They also made it clear that the onus is on US Soccer to respond to their demands and pay the USWNT players on equal terms with the men.

“I think this is one of those cases where it’s super clear,” Tchijov said. “So I really hope that the Federation does the right thing.”

I asked Hildebrand if their organization plans on launching a similar campaign for NWSL players, whose minimum salary is barely above the federal poverty line. They told me the players should get in touch with them.

“I’d love to talk to them about it.”

An official with US Soccer, speaking with me on background, said that no dates have been set for arbitration meetings with the players, but that they expect those meetings to begin before the end of the year. They said that the equal pay issue is more complicated than what is typically reported on; in particular, they said that much of the reporting on specific pay figures is based on the 2016 CBA, which is now out of date. Said US Soccer official also made a point to dispute reports that the players asked to transition to a pay-to-play agreement similar to what the USMNT have but that the Federation refused.

Throughout the event, organizers stressed that the fight for gender pay equity is much bigger than this particular campaign. Cherita Ellens, CEO for Women Employed, emphasized this in her message for the players.

We have one ask,” said Ellens. “That when the US Women’s National Team earn their pay equity... they continue to use their platform until all women reach that.”