NFL can impose pandemic protocols, NFLPA can challenge via grievance
The NFL and NFL Players Association currently are negotiating the various rules for football in a pandemic, but not because the pandemic gives rise to a duty to bargain.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the NFL has full authority to implement any and all rules that the league deems to be appropriate for the 2020 season, given the ongoing spread of the coronavirus. The NFLPA would then have the ability to file an immediate grievance on the question of whether the league is providing a reasonably safe workplace.
If, for example, the league were to proceed with no testing at all, the players would have a good case for a finding that the league has failed to not provide a safe workplace.
A wildcat strike will not happen. Per the source, the NFLPA won’t be walking out, because doing so could trigger the ability by the league to pull the plug on the entire CBA. Given the event of the past four months, the league likely would rush to scrap the current labor deal.
The primary goal of the ongoing talks is to avoid a grievance. The league also needs to have the players buy in to the rules, and to commit to doing everything possible to stay safe. The players, if they choose not to be conscientious at work or at home, could cause the entire system to collapse. They need to believe in the rules and to be motivated to do everything required to keep everyone safe.
That’s likely the biggest reason why the league is working with the union. The league needs not only the NFLPA but its entire rank and file to commit to behavior that will avoid bringing the virus to the workplace and potentially causing the kind of outbreak that will shut the season down, possibly before it even starts.