The Three Mysteries of the MLS Labor Showdown:
Union President Bob Foose and the players are working to alter the structure of MLS player contracts. The current agreement offers few guaranteed contracts and "semi-guaranteed" contracts are anything but a legal, binding set of obligations by the league as they allow the team bosses to cut players before July 1 without having to fullfill their obligation under the terms of the original agreement
Equally important there is no free agency, so a player who gets cut by the single-entity league has virtually no chance to seek employment on another team. After players are released their teams retain their rights which forces other teams to trade for those rights if they want to sign that player. This makes it very difficult for the players to negotiate in order to find a new home. As such, they don't even own their own labor, which in this case is the talent they bring to the field as one of the best soccer workers in the entire US. Remember, they aren't cut by their team per se, they are cut by the entire league. This is tantamount to a worker at GM being fired and then prevented from taking his skills over to Ford. In the rest of the working world it's called collusion, and it's unconstitutional and about as American as Vietnam, Halliburton and the River Rouge Massacre. The end result is that players are entangled in options that maximize the power of the league over individual players to an extent that no American worker would tolerate.
The whole system is highly exploitive of lower-level players who are left with sweatshop wages and no measure of control over their careers. (Keep in mind, for example, that the Crew's Steven Lenhart’s base salary in 2009 was less than $34,000. This was a huge increase over his 2008 salary of $12,900 when he was on the developmental squad, but hardly the wage of someone whose skills place him in the top 1% of all American soccer workers). For more on MLS salaries, read this article from the Luchametric archive.
All the union wants is a collective bargaining agreement that is consistent with US sport economics and US labor values and that abides by the same rules as the rest of the soccer planet under FIFA.