UAW asks members to support NFL players union

By Bernie Woodall

DETROIT (Reuters) - The United Auto Workers union is huddling up with the National Football League Players Association, whose members could be facing an owner's lockout in March.

The UAW is asking its members to show support for the players union by signing an online petition.

"It doesn't matter if you work on the assembly line or on the line of scrimmage," Gary Casteel, a regional director of the UAW, said in a speech to a UAW conference in Washington on Wednesday.

The NFL says that the average player makes about $2 million per year, compared to about $30,000 for a new UAW hire.

Despite the wage differences, there are many reasons for the UAW to support the players, Casteel said.

Casteel in a telephone interview on Thursday said the players union's talks with the owners of the 32 NFL teams affect about 152,000 who work near and at league stadiums.

"This is also about the restaurant workers, the grounds team, the first responders and the thousands of others who work around the stadiums," said Casteel.

The labor agreement between the owners and players expires on March 4, and the players are preparing for a possible lockout by the owners.

"The owners have the bit in their teeth," NFL Executive Vice President Jeff Pash said this week. "They want an agreement. The notion that NFL owners are looking to shut down the NFL is nonsensical."

Players union regional director Don Davis, in a speech to the UAW conference, said the players have a difficult task in convincing the average fan to sympathize with them.

(Reporting by Bernie Woodall. Editing by Robert MacMillan)