Collective Bargaining a Long-term Security
Johanna's View
by Johanna Wagner
Collective Bargaining a Long-term Security
This post was written by Johanna Wagner on April 22, 2011
Posted Under: Johanna's View

I recently attended a panel discussion about collective bargaining for all three sports leagues and the difficulties that come into play for each of the sports leagues moving forward.  Clearly, with all three major US sports negotiating as we speak, this is a big issue in sports.  For the first time though, baseball’s labor problems are the least contentious.

One of the main points brought up while speaking about the NFL, as anyone following that story knows, is whether the players association should be bargaining for long-term health of its players.  Sure, this proposed 18-game season will add extra wear and tear on their bodies, and that is the health issue getting a lot of press.  But, their long-term health in the past wasn’t the issue the players were most interested in.

In baseball, back in 1980, the union figured out that getting baseball to provide long term health insurance, at least for those players that had been in the league the longest was very important, and they fought for that issue.  Any player since 1980 who played in the league for 10 years since 1980 currently receives health benefits. You may also remember that in the mid-1980s baseball was hit with collusion charges and paid big fines for it.  That is because there was evidence that the league asked teams not to sign any marginal player who was nearing that 10-year vesting mark.  Many players in the early 1980s hit the 9 year mark and never made it to ten, when they would have received a full retirement package.

Players that retired prior to 1980 also were not included in that collective bargaining agreement.  The issue had arisen because many former stars were living in poverty and as a collective bargaining unit, the players felt they didn’t want that to happen to them.  Of course, the players of the 80s didn’t think it was worth continuing a work stoppage to gain a better package for those that came before them.  And that is what has happened in football.  The players in the union today don’t want to risk their paychecks for players that came before them.  They only want to risk their paychecks if it will help them directly.

Yesterday though MLB stepped up in a big way.  Recognizing that they are making a ton of money from the payroll tax on teams that spend over a certain threshold and that that money isn’t going to dry up anytime soon, the league is going to provide a smaller pension plan to any player who played between 1947 and 1980, the total amount based on their service time.  In that era a player had to play for 4 years to vest into the pension plan.  Now four years gets you a full package, which is $10,000 a year, and less time will decrease the total amount.  Keep in mind, there were players who lost playing time because they were serving our country, so perhaps only played for a short time because of that.

The other leagues should look at this and take care of their own.

This isn’t an issue for tomorrow, this is an issue for today.  This is nicely done by MLB.  For more details check out this Lynn Zinser piece.

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Reader Comments

Why just the leagues? Shouldn’t the unions step up as well?

Written By alex baldman on April 22nd, 2011 @ 7:16 am

The point of the piece is that it is a collective bargaining piece, and the unions have to make it important!

MLB is only able to retroactively use the money this way because the union says they can. So in effect, the union is stepping up here too. I think you might be looking for trouble that isn’t there Alex.

Written By Johanna Wagner on April 24th, 2011 @ 8:47 am

The owners can do whatever they want with their profits. They can give it to charity, they can spend it on luxury items, etc. They can also decide to give it to ballplayers who are retired and never received a pension. That is not subject to collective bargaining. Similarly, the union can take the union dues they collect and do whatever they see fit, which obviously includes taking care of retired ballplayers-so of course the union could do more in this area. They don’t need permission from owners to do the right thing…

Written By alex baldman on April 25th, 2011 @ 6:17 am

But this isn’t profits that is being used, this is money from the central fund which includes money being earned through MLB advanced media. That is money the players really would like to get their hands on- like the NFL players have done- and so how MLB uses it is a collective bargaining issue.

Written By Johanna Wagner on April 26th, 2011 @ 8:41 am

If the money includes advanced media, why does the piece you mentioned say the following:

The money will come from the competitive balance tax that teams pay for exceeding the maximum payroll, said Rob Manfred, Major League Baseball’s vice president for labor relations.

Again, the Players Association does not need any permission from the owners to give benefits to retired players who are down on their luck.

They should do more and can do more. On their own…

Written By alex baldman on April 26th, 2011 @ 3:07 pm

OK- but why is it wrong for MLB to step up and do the same? It doesn’t matter who does the right thing does it really?

Written By Johanna Wagner on April 27th, 2011 @ 7:43 am

Where do I say that it is wrong for MLB to do so? Just wondering where you get that from… Certainly not by anything I wrote on here…. Clearly, the owners are coming to the aid of retired ballplayers here. And the union is not. The money comes from the owners pot. The players don’t kick in a dime. Does it matter who is doing the right thing? Of course it does. Because if the owner’s didn’t step up, you would (rightly) criticize them as greedy and heartless. But when the players union,– with its multi- millions in the bank– refuses to do the right thing,you are VERY hesitant to call them out on it. Just wondering why…

Written By alex baldman on April 28th, 2011 @ 10:52 pm

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