Baseball And Collective Bargaining Essay

2453 words - 10 pages

Baseball and Collective Bargaining

In the recent history of professional sports, no other sport has suffered more labor strife than Major League Baseball. Since 1972, negotiations between baseball players and owners have resulted in strikes or lockouts. The 1994 player strike lasted for 232 days, the longest strike in the history of professional sports. This paper will examine the role labor unions and collective bargaining agreements have played in Major League Baseball. Also highlighted, will be the history of labor relations in the field of baseball, from John Montgomery Ward’s first attempt to form a players’ union in 1885 to the 32-day lockout during spring training in 1990. ...view middle of the document...

Players could only move to different teams if they where traded or released from their contracts (Abrams 1998). Introduced in stages, the reserve clause was a standard part of player’s contracts by 1883. Players challenged this clause from the beginning, arguing that the policy curtailed their freedom. Owners, on the other hand, argued that the reserve clause was fair and necessary. The disagreement over the reserve clause was the beginning of tensions between players and management, and laid the foundation for the first players’ union.
By 1885, John Montgomery Ward founded the Brotherhood of the Professional Base Ball Players. Ward was a vocal critic of the reserve clause, saying that it reduced players to being “bought, sold and exchanged as though they were sheep instead of American citizens” (Layden 1995: 28). Ward protested the power owners had over the players, emphasizing that baseball players were being reduced to property. In response, team owners tried to take greater control of the game by proposing a salary cap. By 1889, new league rules mandated a $2,500 salary limit per season, regardless of their performance. Players were additionally required to pay a rental fee for their uniforms (Layden 1995). The measures further stoked the resentment among the players. Led by Ward, a group of players revolted against the National League. Fifty-six players tore up their contracts, walked out on their teams and formed the Players League.
The Players League included many of the era’s best athletes. More important, the new league also had the support of the American Federation of Labor (Abrams 1998). With this backing, the Players League quickly established franchises in cities across the country. Since many of these cities already had National League franchises, fans were forced to choose between the two leagues. Initially, the Players League drew bigger crowds with their rosters of star players. However, after the 1890 season, investors withdrew their support. Many players were forced to return to their old teams. In what was to be the first negotiations between labor and management, representatives of the Players and the National League entered negotiations (Abrams 1998). These negotiations prompted the player’s union to disband and funnel back into the National League, with most of the players returning to their old teams. The controversial reserve clause and salary cap, however, remained in effect for the next five decades.
By 1954, another group of discontented players formed the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA). With the hiring of labor negotiator Marvin Miller in 1966, the Major League grew into a powerful force on behalf of the players. With Miller employing a trade union approach, the MLBPA scored several important victories for its members. In their first collective bargaining agreement in 1968, union representatives successfully negotiated higher minimum salaries, better retirement packages and more...

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