The NBA Players Association has begun to vote to decertify as a union, according to the Dallas Business Journal (via Pro Basketball Talk). Union head Billy Hunter is conducting the vote in person inside various NBA locker rooms as he travels to talk about labor issues as the league counts down toward an expected lockout on July 1, 2011. The DBJ reports that at least two teams have voted unanimously to authorize decertification.
What would decertification do? It would allow NBA players to sue the league for antitrust violations if the NBA shut down on July 1. Since teams would stop paying players in the event of a lockout, the union believes that would constitute an antitrust violation by not allowing these workers to engage in their craft (being that the NBA certainly has a monopoly on professional basketball in the United States). It would also give the union justification to sue if the NBA instituted new salary rules outside of collective bargaining.
If the players do eventually decertify, it would mark a first for the NBA. The NFL's players union decertified in 1989, but decertification votes by the NBAPA failed in both 1995 and 1998. It's unclear why the NBAPA feels differently about decertification this time around, though a lack of success in the 1998 lockout and the NFLPA's recent decision to authorize certification may play into it.
Either way, decertification will set up some very interesting potential judicial decision in July, August and September should the NBA push forward with a lockout.