The History of Baseball Unionization: Where Murphy Money came from

This article is free for anyone to read, but please consider becoming a Patreon subscriber to allow me to keep writing posts like this one.

Major League Baseball players had few rights before the signing of the first collective bargaining agreement in professional sports in 1968. They didn’t get all of their current rights all at once, either: the battle was, and is, an ongoing one. Before the Players Association, before Marvin Miller, there were other attempts to organize baseball players against the bosses. In this series, we’ll investigate each of those attempts, and suss out what went wrong. Here’s part 1part 2, and part 3

It would be some time after the defeat of the Fraternity of Professional Baseball Players before any more serious unionization efforts occurred in Major League Baseball. And the next one was extremely localized, too: rather than an entire union and then league sprouting up from it, or a union that briefly benefited from the attempt of a third league to form, the American Baseball Guild’s most notable moment existed with just one (1) team: the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The year 1946 was a massive one for labor in America: post-war, with soldiers returning home from Europe and the Pacific to their old lives and old jobs, there was basically no way there would not be some kind of labor strife. Because of the sudden influx of workers from this return, wages fell — Major League Baseball was not immune to this, as they, an industry that continued on through the Second World War, had replacement players that had become regulars in the mix with players returning to their old roster spots, necessitating an expansion of rosters from 25 to 36. To keep payrolls level, teams reduced individual pay.

Continue reading “The History of Baseball Unionization: Where Murphy Money came from”

WWE claiming ownership of wrestlers’ real names and their money, too

This article is free for anyone to read, but please consider becoming a Patreon subscriber to allow me to keep writing posts like this one.

You might recall that, about a month ago, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) introduced a policy change for its performers, one that was exceedingly confusing and full of contradictory follow-up reports. Those wrestlers would be policed by WWE on their use of and relationships with “third-parties” like Twitch and Cameo, with the idea supposedly being that WWE was concerned about protecting their legal rights — like trademarks for wrestler names WWE owns. Basically, WWE didn’t like the idea of anyone making money on their own time if they were doing it using a name WWE owns, and decided they were going to take total control of those potential revenue-generating relationships.

The thing is, though, that WWE isn’t just doing this with the names they’ve trademarked. If a wrestler has a Twitch or a Cameo using their actual, real name, and not their WWE one, then WWE is still seeking control of those accounts and the dollars they generate. According to Wrestling Inc.’s reporting, WWE will take control of these Twitch and Cameo accounts by November.

Continue reading “WWE claiming ownership of wrestlers’ real names and their money, too”

The MLBPA is standing with hotel workers getting a raw deal

This article is free for anyone to read, but please consider becoming a Patreon subscriber to allow me to keep writing posts like this one.

Major League Baseball has once again seen teams select a hotel with an ongoing labor issue during the postseason. Over the weekend, UNITE HERE Local 11, whose members are located in southern California and Arizona, sent out a press release explaining what’s going on. The short of it is that the hotel MLB selected to host a number of MLB teams during the postseason has failed to rehire many of its most senior workers which they had let go during the earlier stages of the pandemic. Business is back, but the jobs aren’t, at least, not for those with seniority and experience.

It goes beyond just that basic framing, though. These employees weren’t furloughed, with their health insurance kept intact, until things got better. They were fully let go, their health insurance cut off during a pandemic, while neighboring hotels managed to avoid doing either of those things:

Continue reading “The MLBPA is standing with hotel workers getting a raw deal”

How are MiLB players going to live during the offseason, mid-pandemic?

This article is free for anyone to read, but please consider becoming a Patreon subscriber to allow me to keep writing posts like this one.

​Minor League Baseball players have to work in the offseason. Maybe not every minor-league player — a few early draft picks might have received large enough signing bonuses to avoid that fate, and the players on 40-man rosters are making a living wage thanks to being part of the Players Association with the protections and benefits that entail. But the vast majority of the thousands upon thousands of minor leaguers are making sub-poverty level wages, and for just a few months per year. In order to pay rent, eat, and continue to be able to train for their career, these players need to find second jobs to sustain themselves.

Continue reading “How are MiLB players going to live during the offseason, mid-pandemic?”

MLB wants to keep the expanded postseason, ruin regular season further

This article is free for anyone to read, but please consider becoming a Patreon subscriber to gain access to the rest of my work and allow me to keep writing posts like this one.

Major League Baseball and the Players Association agreed to an expanded postseason for the shortened 2020 season, as a way to make up for the revenues lost by not airing any games for the first three months of what would have been the regular season. Now, though, MLB begins part two of their expanded postseason plan: convincing you it is not just a temporary, pandemic-related bug, but instead the kind of feature you should be hoping sticks. Here’s commissioner Rob Manfred, in the Washington Post:

Continue reading “MLB wants to keep the expanded postseason, ruin regular season further”

The History of Baseball Unionization: When vaudeville ended a baseball strike

Major League Baseball players had few rights before the signing of the first collective bargaining agreement in professional sports in 1968. They didn’t get all of their current rights all at once, either: the battle was, and is, an ongoing one. Before the Players Association, before Marvin Miller, there were other attempts to organize baseball players against the bosses. In this series, we’ll investigate each of those attempts, and suss out what went wrong. Here’s part 1 and part 2

The Players Protective Association had a promising start when the budding American League used its desires for better wages and protections to steal players from the reigning National League, but it didn’t end up working out in the long run. That’s because the AL, like the capitalists investing in the Players League before it, ended up partnering with the NL and eliminating themselves as competition in the process.

A little less than a decade later, in 1912, the Fraternity of Professional Baseball Players of America formed, with former player Dave Fultz at the head. Fultz, like John Ward of the Brotherhood of Professional Baseball Players, had a background in law thanks to an education at Colombia, and was a practicing lawyer at the time of the formation of the Fraternity. He also kept in close contact with active players and their concerns, and those conversations — some about their continued gripes about the reserve clause, which no one had been able to permanently get rid of to that point — helped lead to the formation of the Fraternity.

Continue reading “The History of Baseball Unionization: When vaudeville ended a baseball strike”

WWE policy change reopens question of independent contractor status

This article is free for anyone to read, but please consider becoming a Patreon subscriber to allow me to keep writing posts like this one.

The wrestlers of World Wrestling Entertainment perform exclusively for WWE. They travel across America, Canada, and overseas to perform live television shows multiple times per week, and have a touring brand for “house” shows, non-televised performances, as well. They do this 52 weeks per year, they do not get an offseason, and the physical toll on their bodies is obvious in a way it isn’t for most other non-football sports.

And yet, WWE’s wrestlers are not full-time employees. They’re independent contractors, without access to benefits or health insurance. They are responsible for arranging and paying for their own rental cars. They don’t, except in rare circumstances, receive a meaningful cut (or any cut) of merchandising revenue that their own performances drive the sales of. They are entirely at the whims of a 75-year-old egomaniac who equates WWE with wrestling itself and vice versa, and himself with both of those things as well. Saying no or making a fuss about anything could lead to being taken off of television, being let go, or having to spend months being publicly humiliated on camera.

Continue reading “WWE policy change reopens question of independent contractor status”

MLB plans to replace MiLB teams with clubs full of unpaid players

This article is free for anyone to read, but please consider becoming a Patreon subscriber to allow me to keep writing posts like this one.

Major League Baseball still hasn’t unveiled what their plan is for replacing one-quarter of Minor League Baseball’s teams, but there have been enough leaks and reporting on the subject at this point that we’re still pretty clear on what’s next. Minor League Baseball teams that are being pushed out of MLB affiliations will still get to have teams of a sort, but the 1,000 players whose jobs are now on the line? They are being replaced
with a workforce that is somehow paid even less: independent players and college baseball players.

Baseball America has reported for months about how college wood bat leagues were one of the potential replacements for the disaffiliated clubs, and now ESPN is reporting, with a week to go before MLB formally proposes a plan to Minor League Baseball, that this and “encouraging” disaffiliated clubs to go independent with MLB paying the franchise fees for entry is the direction that’ll be taken:

Continue reading “MLB plans to replace MiLB teams with clubs full of unpaid players”

MLB teams can now open instructional camps, but only if they pay players

While the occasional article is free for everyone, the vast majority of this content is restricted to my Patreon subscribers, whose support allows me to write all of this in the first place. Please consider becoming a subscriber! -Marc Normandin
To view this content, you must be a member of Marc Normandin's Patreon at $5 or more
Already a qualifying Patreon member? Refresh to access this content.

The NBA’s players might not want NBA approval anymore

This article is free for anyone to read, but please consider becoming a Patreon subscriber to gain access to the rest of my work and allow me to keep writing posts like this one.

Earlier this month, I published a piece in this space that discussed, in part, how NBA players had missed an opportunity to wield their collective power by giving in to the league and resuming the season amid a pandemic and nationwide Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality. Nathaniel Friedman and Jesse Einhorn, at The New Republic, went much further and deeper on that particular angle in a feature titled, “The Dismal Politics of the Sports World’s “Wokest” League.”

Within that piece, Friedman and Einhorn explained how there were two opposing camps when it came to the return: the one led by Kyrie Irving and Avery Bradley wanted to tackle this moment in time by not playing, and instead do what they could to help and bring attention to the Black Lives Matter protests. The other camp, led by LeBron James, was more in concert with the NBA, with a different vision of activism. One more corporately approved, the thinking behind which led to this graph from the New Republic pair:

Continue reading “The NBA’s players might not want NBA approval anymore”