Tag Archive: MLBPA

Mar 15

MLB in Trouble

By Miller Lulow.

Just for a minute, let’s put ourselves in the shoes of Tony Clark, Executive Director of the Major League Baseball Players’ Association (the “MLBPA” or “Players”). The current Collective Bargaining Agreement (“CBA”) governing the relationship between the MLBPA and the Clubs expires December 1, 2016. Calculated speculation suggests that Bryce Harper, Right Fielder for the Washington Nationals, may be able to sign a $500M free agent contract in the winter of 2019. With Harper’s free agency lurking and the MLB seeing its most fruitful dividends in history, the MLBPA is going to be licking its chops going into the renewal of the CBA. When the MLBPA sits down with the MLB to restructure the CBA, the two positions butting heads will be: “We want a bigger piece of that pie” against “You’ve already had dessert.”

These conflicting positions raise an interesting debate: How much of the rising revenue are Players entitled to receive? The Clubs will assert that the rise in revenue is attributable to smart business decisions that capitalize on, and enhance, the product that the Players put out on the field. Conversely, the Players will argue that there would be no product to capitalize on if it were not for them. Thus, how can the Clubs overcome the Players’ argument that without the Players, the Clubs would not be owners?—they don’t. Instead, they agree and say, “Of course, you’re right, that’s why we pay you so much to begin with!”

The 2016 minimum salary in MLB will be $507,500. Tony Clark’s argument in favor of higher minimum salaries is that MLB players are employed 24/7/365. They are always on the company’s time. Even during the offseason, players are expected to work hard, become better at their craft, and get into better physical shape. Clark’s argument is very powerful once you consider that paying somebody $507,500 for 8,760 hours (1 year) of work means you are paying them $58 per hour. Though there are not many people who would turn down work for $58 an hour, think about working twelve to fourteen hours a day, traveling all over the country, rarely sleeping at home or seeing your family, and rarely getting more than five hours of sleep. Maybe $58 an hour does not seem all that great anymore. This goes to show the difficulty surrounding the impending restructuring of the CBA. As is the case every four years, the Players want more and the Clubs want more. How can we find common ground?

Maury Brown of Forbes.com says that MLB’s revenue grew $500M this year, bringing the total revenue close to $9.5 billion. So, if Harper signs a $500M contract, while he would not be paid all $500M up front, he would be signing a contract for 5.3% of the total MLB revenue. This idea is certain to make Clubs in smaller markets quiver. Harper has just about made it publicly clear that his intention is to be a Yankee—the Yankees have a rapidly declining payroll obligation that will culminate in the 2019 offseason to a mere $45.1M. Though all signs seem to point to the Yankees, because of the free agency system, the prices continue to drive themselves up.

So what ripple effect will a 10 year/$500M contract have on the rest of the players, or perhaps, on the rest of the Clubs? For one, do not think that the Players are ever rooting against each other in salary negotiations. The more money Player X signs for, the more money Player Y signs for, especially if they play the same position. But one player signing for $500M affects everybody, even the 6th-inning middle relievers, because the ripple is so massive. Therefore, the Players are rooting for Harper to sign as big of a deal as possible. On the other side of the table, while there are some Clubs that will pay that money for Harper, the overwhelming majority will not acquiesce. Such an amount would put a lot of pressure on the MLB to continue to raise its gross revenue.

Is it conceivable that one player could sign a contract worth $500M? It certainly looks like Bryce Harper will be that player in 2019. Indeed, this will pose some uncomfortable issues to be hashed out and hopefully agreed upon by the Players and the Clubs in the new CBA. It is interesting to see what kind of trouble it will bring for the MLB.

Apr 01

Arbitration in Professional Sports Symposium

On April 19, 2013, the Center for Labor and Employment and the Labor Relations and Employment Society will host a spring symposium; presenting a full day of learning focusing on how arbitration has affected labor management relationships in sports. This symposium will bring together key players in the world of sports arbitration. This is a not-to-be missed opportunity to meet, hear, and, most important of all, learn from the people who have been responsible for that, and who know the most about it.

A luncheon address by Donald Fehr, the preeminent sports union leader in the country, and a “fireside chat” with George Nicolau and John Feerick, internationally renowned arbitrators, headline the event, but it also includes sessions in which today’s leading practitioners of both salary and grievance arbitration, on both sides of the labor and management aisle, wilhockeyl describe how those processes work, what interested students need to know about the demands of both, and how the arbitration process has affected labor management relations in their sports.

Please see the event page for a full list of participants. The Center for Labor and Employment Law and the Labor Relations and Employment Law Society are very grateful to all of the speakers. Special thanks to Gene Orza ’73, a cofounder of the St. John’s Labor Relations and Employment Law Society more than 40 years ago. Gene and his successor, Andrew Midgen ‘13, current co-President of the Labor Relations and Employment Law Society, are the driving forces of this symposium. Special thanks also to Jeff Zaino, Vice President of the American Arbitration Association, and Professor Sam Estreicher, Director of the Center for Labor and Employment Law at NYU Law, for collaborating with us on this extraordinary event. We also thank the symposium co-sponsors: The Hugh Carey Center for Dispute Resolution, the Dispute Resolution Society, and the Entertainment, Arts and Sports Law Society at St. John’s School of Law.

We would also like to extend special thanks to Frederick Braid ’71 and Ronald Russo ’73 for generously underwriting some of the costs of the symposium.

There is no fee to attend the symposium, but registration is required.  To RSVP please go to the “Contact Us” tab and send us a message with your contact information and the subject line “Arbitration in Professional Sports Event RSVP”. The full-day event qualifies attendee’s for 4 non-transitional CLE credits for a fee of $100. For payment and registration for CLE credit please register for the event at www.stjohns.edu/law/2013clelsymp.

We hope to see you there!

 

Jan 29

Labor Relations and the Future of Professional Baseball Symposium Transcript Published

The transcript of Labor Relations and the Future of Professional Baseball, a symposium hosted by the St. John’s University School of Law’s Center for Labor and Employment Law, has been published by the Seton Hall University School of Law Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law. (22 Seton Hall J. of Sports & Entertainment L. 164.)  The symposium was held on November 18, 2011 and was widely attended by practitioners and students alike.

“I am thankful to the Seton Hall Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law for publishing the transcript of the symposium and to all those who took part in making the event a success,” said Professor David Gregory, Executive Director of the Center for Labor and Employment Law.   Jack Newhouse and Melissa Schneer, Class of 2012 officers of the St. John’s Law Labor and Law Society, were the driving forces of the Conference.  “The day provided an inside look at the history and current status of labor relations in the sport of baseball, as well as spirited debate about the course of its future.  It is my hope that the transcript will provide those who were not able to attend the opportunity to gain the insights and knowledge that came out of the symposium.”

The conference highlight was a keynote speech by Professor William B. Gould, IV of the Stanford Law School and former Chairman of the National Labor Relations Board during the Clinton Administration. He shared his childhood memories of baseball, and mapped out the development of the players union, from efforts to unionize in 1946 to the Messersmith-McNally arbitrations in 1975. (Id at 173-84.)  He also shared his thoughts on the future of baseball, including potential changes in drug testing and drafting. (Id at 187-90.)  Professor’s Gould’s remarks were followed by a panel discussion that covered a wide range of topics, including drug testing, international players, and what role considerations of giving back to the community should have in the collective bargaining discussion. (Id at 193-239.)

“The Labor Relations and Baseball symposium provides a terrific platform for our next major event.  Friday, April19, 2013, will be devoted to a day long panel discussion on the Role of Arbitration in Professional Sports.  Several of the world’s great arbitrators are confirmed speakers and our distinguished alumnus Gene Orza is confirmed as the program moderator.  It will be free of charge and open to the community,” said Professor David Gregory.

Anyone interested in obtaining a copy of the Journal issue in which the November 18, 2011 transcript appears should contact the Seton Hall Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law at: Seton Hall School of Law, 1 Newark Center, Newark, NJ 07102.  Phone: 973-642-8239.

Jan 23

Remembering Marvin Miller: A Glimpse Inside the Memorial of a MLBPA Legend

Fellow Student-Author Krystyna Baumgartner and I had the privilege of attending the Major League Baseball Players Association’s (“MLBPA”) memorial for Marvin Miller on Monday, January 21st at NYU’s School of Law. The memorial was a glorious tribute to the life and legacy of one of the most important and successful leaders in labor history.

 

The memorial featured thirteen speakers with clips of Marvin Miller inserted in between. The first speaker was Richard Moss, prominent General Counsel of the MLBPA after Miller was elected Executive Director in 1966.  Moss stated that Miller was especially gifted in explaining difficult concepts in a way that everyone could understand, without talking down to the listener, a skill that was echoed by speakers throughout the night.

 

Executive Director of the National Hockey League Players Association, Donald Fehr, also spoke. Fehr reflected on the emotional side of Marvin Miller that he deliberately concealed from the public. Miller was a brilliant tactician, even outside the negotiating room. For example, Fehr noted that Miller would intentionally speak quietly in order to make the players strain to pay attention.  Fehr also notably addressed why Marvin Miller is still remembered today, more than 30 years after he retired. He argued that Miller built the MLBPA into a symbol of what a union could be, if run properly. Since former President Regan’s firing of 11,000 striking air traffic controllers in 1981, there has been a general acceptance of attack on labor unions from management, which continues today. Despite the hostile environment, the MLBPA successfully struck in 1981 and 1994.  Finally, Fehr stated that Miller’s work to get individual members to take ownership of their union is the reason for the MLBPA’s success and claimed that unions in other industries would be much better off today if they were run with similar principles.

 

Of particular interest was the bevy of both current and former players in attendance. Speakers included Hall of Fame members Dave Winfield and Joe Morgan. Many players echoed sentiments that Miller’s most difficult job was to organize a group of individuals who feared for their job security if they joined a union and who wanted to focus on playing baseball rather than deal with labor relations issues. It took several years for the players to realize what could be gained from union solidarity. Buck Martinez and Jim Bouton described Miller as an educator. Current Director of Player Relations, Tony Clark, noted the lasting appreciation that the players have for Marvin Miller and the principles he stood for, inviting several current players in attendance to stand. Just about every single player expressed his offense to Miller’s exclusion from the Hall of Fame.

 

Finally, the clips of Marvin Miller were especially poignant. During his vignettes Miller expressed pride in his involvement with numerous unions and noted the value of speaking to each and every member. He also noted the conditions players faced prior to taking ownership of their union, and cautioned the players to not take their current position for granted. Miller stressed that educated, involved union members are necessary for the continuing success of the MLBPA.