Why the MLBPA hadn’t already organized minor leaguers

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You aren’t about to hear me say that the Major League Baseball Players Association has always had the needs of minor-league players in mind during their negotiations, but there is at least one persistent criticism of the union’s handling of minor leaguers that doesn’t carry much weight, and that’s the fact that they weren’t already part of the MLBPA. There have been reasons for things being split the way they are for decades — for the entire history of the Players Association as we know it today — and it’s only just recently that the environment has changed in a way where the PA could more formally lend assistance to the organization of minor-league players.

Back in 2012, Slate spoke to the PA’s first executive director, Marvin Miller, as well as Gene Orza, who spent 26 years working with the PA after being brought on as an associate general counsel, about the decision to not include minor-league players in the organizing of the MLBPA:

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NBA, NBPA agree to pension substitute for aging pension-less ABA players

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​There is good news for former American Basketball Association players who didn’t play long enough to qualify for an NBA pension. Thanks to the work of the Dropping Dimes Foundation, 115 former players will receive a portion of $24.5 million, as agreed to by the NBA’s board of governors. The payments will come from both the NBA and from the National Basketball Players Association, and while it isn’t a pension, it still will serve somewhat like one.

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Bernie Sanders threatened MLB’s antitrust exemption, and an old task force better support that

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A little over one year ago, I wrote about how it’s too late for the United States Congress to save Minor League Baseball like some of its members had hoped to prior to MLB’s disaffiliation of dozens of teams, but that there was still time to punish the league for their monopolistic actions. The punishment that would work best was and is the removal of MLB’s antitrust exemption, the existence of which allowed them to get away with shrinking the minors without anything stopping them from doing so in the first place.

While there was basically silence on the issue coming from Congress from the time I wrote that last February until now… well, now is a little different, because Senator Bernie Sanders is making the removal of MLB’s antitrust exemption a priority. Legislation has been introduced, and as Sanders explained on HBO’s Real Sports, it’s not just because of MLB’s removal of 40 minor-league clubs, but also the owner-imposed lockout that was clearly designed to just break the union and gain further control and power over the players.

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Understanding 1994, the owners’ leverage, and a shift in media tone

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The benefit of assuming that there would be no deal by the time MLB’s self-imposed bargaining deadline passed is that, now that there is officially no deal and the first two series of the 2022 season have been canceled, there is less catching up to do around these parts than elsewhere. The downside to that level of preparedness is that “where to begin?” in a post-cancelation world is a much more open question: we’ve got much to think about.

Let’s start simple: by recapping a bit. On Monday, Baseball Prospectus ran a feature of mine titled “1994 Explains What ‘Labor Peace’ Never Could,” with the idea behind it being that the owners’ goals in 1994, and how those goals ended up playing out, are far more instructive to us in the present than the decades of “labor peace” are. You can’t think about what’s happening now in terms of how CBAs were negotiated in 2016, or 2011, or even in the aughts. The owners have a goal here, and it’s to crush the union. That, to them, is the goal. It’s the only “fair” outcome in their minds, and anything less is worth sacrificing season to avoid.

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Rob Manfred said some unbelievable stuff hoping you’d believe it

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On Thursday, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred addressed the media following the quarterly meeting of the league’s owners. There… well, he said a lot of Manfred things, but none more Manfred than his declaration that owning an MLB team is a worse form of investing than the stock market. I don’t want to tackle how that looks from a Business Point of View, because it’s the kind of lie the wealthy who own sports teams want to be told in order to let them continue to operate in this exclusive, money-printing club with little questioning of where their money comes from, but I do want to discuss why we should consider this a lie in the first place.

I’m not even talking about an in-depth look at whether the numbers provided by the investment banker hired by MLB to tell the league they’re all good boys and girls who have been mistreated by the wicked press and players ring true or not. Just like, look at MLB’s history when it comes to how they talk about money, and how they hide how good the owners actually have it, and extrapolate from there.

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Mailbag: The length of a CBA

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As we’re in the midst of a lockout, there are surely questions that need to be answered about the state of labor negotiations and the processes involved. I’m happy to answer what I can, so please, if you have something in mind, ask away: you can send me an email at marcnormandin at gmail, respond to this newsletter email if that’s the format you’re reading it in, or ping me on Twitter.

Today’s question is on the length of collective bargaining agreements, courtesy @DJSloppyJoeM on Twitter. Let’s get to it:

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The year in creating sports coverage, featuring leftism

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The end of 2021 approaches, which means another year of this labor-focused newsletter has wrapped up. It was an eventful year, for both major- and minor-league players, and the goal of this particular column, as always, is to remind you of the year that was. Let’s get right to it — each paragraph represents a month, and I’ll highlight a few pieces from all 12 of them.

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Rob Manfred and the ‘mistake’ of 1994

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“We made the mistake of playing without a collective bargaining agreement in 1994, and it cost our fans and our clubs dearly,” [Rob] Manfred said. “We will not make that same mistake again.”

This line from MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has been bothering me since I first read it in the New York Times, back when this offseason lockout kicked off. It’s just so disingenuous, on a number of levels. Yes, it was a strategic mistake, in a vacuum, for the league to play without a CBA, because it gave the players room to strike when they wanted to — closer to the end of the season, to put the postseason and World Series in doubt and the decision to go forward with those in the hands of the league and owners. To try to say the fans suffered for this mistake, though, and to lump the clubs in with said suffering, implying in the process that it was the players’ decision to strike that “cost” these two groups dearly, is where the bullshit lives. The decision was not made in a vacuum: it was made within the context of its time, and was a calculated choice by the commissioner and owners that they hoped would forever tip the balance of power back in their favor.

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A brief history of MLB’s lockouts

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The history of strikes in Major League Baseball gets a lot of play in historical look backs, but lockouts? Not nearly as much. Baseball Reference’s comprehensive encyclopedia Bullpen doesn’t even have a page just for lockouts: it just lumped them in with the “Strikes (labor)” page instead. Part of this lack of attention is because there has never been an MLB game canceled because of a lockout: even the one that dragged into the start of the season just pushed back when games were played. They tend to be a thing that occurs during spring training, with the owners balking at some demand the players are making, and then, the lockout ends shortly after.

So, with a lockout potentially on the horizon this winter or next spring, let’s take a look back at the previous times the owners locked all the doors to keep the players out.

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Round-up: Athletes as workers, rediscovering America’s pastime, and the NWSL

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I’ve been pretty lax of late pointing y’all toward things I’ve been reading that I also think you should read, which was kind of the fault of a whole bunch of factors, but hey. Let’s change that up, and dedicate this whole newsletter entry to stuff I’ve been reading that I think you should read.

First up is Britni de la Cretaz and the return of Mic. Their first feature for the relaunched publication is on the fact we’re not used to seeing athletes as workers, even though they have to deal with management, even though they are not in control of capital within their own leagues, even though there are plenty of professional athletes out there who are making less money each year than some of the folks reading this right now. The topic is not only one that is close to me, but de la Cretaz spoke to me a bit about the subject, and I’m quoted in there a few times.

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