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.