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Players prod union on talks


NEW YORK -- Negotiators for NBA owners and players continued trying to complete a new labor agreement yesterday, but players and agents made their job potentially more difficult by escalating their dispute with the union's leader.

According to agents, a steady stream of players signed their names to notices saying they no longer wanted the union to represent them in collective bargaining. The list, the agents said, included Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, Reggie Miller, Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, Moses Malone and Alonzo Mourning.

The players, backed by their agents, took the action in response to what they contend is the refusal of Simon Gourdine, the union leader, to keep them informed on the status and details of the negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement.

Gourdine countered that claim in a letter to members of the union's agents advisory committee yesterday, but his response did not mollify them or their clients. Gourdine was involved in negotiations and not available to comment on the players' signing of the decertification notices.

The possible effect of the notices was not certain. One agent, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that if more than 50 percent of the union's members submitted decertification notices and they were given to the union, the union would have to cease negotiations.

It is also possible that the notices will never be delivered to the union, but will be used to induce Gourdine to be more forthcoming with union members and perhaps even change some of his positions in the talks.

A labor lawyer not involved in the dispute but intimately familiar with sports labor said the notices would be tantamount to a no-confidence vote.

"It may not have a binding effect," the lawyer said. "It's not an NLRB vote that decertifies a union, but it's just as powerful a political blow to the organization."

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