Just in time for the start of the NFL season, the Center for American Progress Action Fund is out with a new report on the league’s collective bargaining agreement.

The report uses a bit of drama to get fans’ attention, noting that NFL owners “are threatening to lock out the players next season—meaning canceled games—if the owners and the players’ union cannot agree to a new collective bargaining agreement by March 2011.”

Oh, no! Canceled games?!

CAP leans to the left, and its football facts are aimed at making a bigger point:

These negotiations are important not just to NFL fans but to all Americans because they show that collective bargaining—the process where unionized workers and management negotiate wages, benefits, and working conditions—can create significant benefits for both workers and owners. This is a process that most Americans no longer have first-hand knowledge of. The reason: Just 7 percent of the private-sector workforce today is unionized. That’s why the latest round of negotiations can help illustrate how unions can help level the playing field between workers and management.

Not all football fans will agree with that analysis. But there’s a nice bit of info here on how money flows in the game, and data on how median player salaries and team values rose together between 2006 and 2009. Even charts and graphs. Definitely worth a read during those commercial breaks.

—Ezra Klein just launched a good new series, using his perch to let a handful of experts explain what they’d do “to kick-start job creation.”

To get things rolling he called on Andy Stern, the former SEIU president and current member of the president’s fiscal commission.

Stern cuts right to the chase, with some pretty big plans:

Job Sharing Program.
Cost: $54 billion
Pay-for: Loans to Unemployment Insurance (UI) Funds to be repaid with a small UI surtax starting in 2013 on all employers.
Jobs created: 2.4 million

Infrastructure Bank.
Cost: $30 billion
Pay-for: One-time repatriation break for corporate earnings
Jobs created: 8.4 million

Youth Employment Programs.
Cost: $46.5 billion
Pay-for: Financial Speculation Tax
Jobs created: 3.1 million jobs

Total $130.5 billion 11.8 million jobs
Net Cost to Taxpayers = $0

Stern goes on to explain each idea, then declares, “That’s my plan. Call me or raise me!”

Klein is going to give several others the chance to do just that, including Mark Zandi of Moody’s and David Walker, who runs the Peter G. Peterson Foundation (Yes, those Peterson folks are everywhere!).

As Klein explains:

The idea here is not to see how many compromises can dance on the head of the congressional pin; it’s to see what exactly different experts think needs to be done.

It’s a great idea, and well worth keeping an eye on.

—A bunch of news organizations went to town last week on a report, based on Census data, that, they said, showed that young single women are earning more than their male peers in big cities around the country.

Thankfully, over at Slate, Heather Boushey gives that tale the context that was largely lacking in those earlier reports, especially the fact that “young women are earning more than young men because young women are acquiring more skills than the men are.”

Here’s her bottom line:

There are two ways to look at the gender pay gap. The first way is to ask whether equally skilled men and women in comparable jobs are paid the same. That’s the way to gauge workplace fairness. Do women with similar credentials in similar jobs earn as much as the men they work with? It’s in this context that the answer remains no.

It’s a good bit of writing and explaining, and a good reminder that sometimes the story that sounds best isn’t what the numbers really say.

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Holly Yeager is CJR's Peterson Fellow, covering fiscal and economic policy. She is based in Washington and reachable at holly.yeager@gmail.com.