What Major League Baseball Can Learn from Its International Counterparts: Building a Model Collective Bargaining Agreement for Major League Baseball

Article excerpt

I. INTRODUCTION

For the past ninety years, through wars abroad and domestic turmoil, the month of October always belonged to baseball in the United States. Every autumn as children returned to school, baseball's several pennant races absorbed the nation as fans urged their teams towards a World Series berth. Undoubtedly, this tradition of the "Fall Classic" lent a certain stability to the lives of millions of people throughout the United States. Nevertheless, in 1994, baseball fans were deprived of the World Series for the first time since 1903 due to a midseason strike that canceled the remainder of the season.

In the past decade alone, Major League Baseball (MLB) endured two major player strikes and a spring training lockout by the owners. These labor problems resulted from the unwillingness of the parties involved to systematically address all of the major issues of contention. Instead, the parties applied a temporary bandaid remedy in place of a desperately needed long-term settlement. In the past U.S. baseball negotiators looked to other sports leagues within the United States, such as the National Football League, for answers to their labor problems. If MLB has realistic hopes for permanence in the twenty-first century, it should seriously consider the innovative view of international sports leagues towards similar labor relations conflicts.

This Note presents a model collective bargaining agreement that resolves the major issues, still lingering from the 1994 MLB strike, that separate the players and owners. Although the players have returned to work, there is no negotiated settlement as of the middle of the 1996 baseball season. A second, and potentially more damaging work stoppage is inevitable without a new collective bargaining agreement. This Note proposes that to resolve internal labor problems, MLB should consider two international labor relations schemes that reflect different political cultures and values.

This Note first provides some basic information on three distinct sports leagues: MLB in the United States, the Japanese Baseball League, and the Football Association of England (FA).1 This information provides the background to the Note's subsequent discussion of the labor laws in each country and the histories of union representation in the three sports leagues. Next, this Note addresses the strengths and weaknesses of bargaining and labor agreements between players and owners in each league. In the analysis section of this Note the characteristics of the Japanese and English leagues serve as the basis for a model collective bargaining agreement to stabilize MLB. By utilizing the strengths offered by the English and Japanese leagues, MLB can achieve a compromise model collective bargaining agreement to resolve not only the present labor dispute, but also to secure MLB well into the next century.

A. United States: Major League Baseball

Baseball in the United States arguably converted to its modern form in 1839 when "Abner Doubleday stepped out the measurements for a [baseball] diamond in Cooperstown, New York."2 The National League was established in 1876 and the American League was established in 1900.3 The two leagues merged in 1903-the year of the first World Series-to create MLB.4 Several other leagues rose to challenge MLB, most notably the Federal and Mexican Leagues, but none were able to sustain their efforts.5

Since 1969 MLB has been separated into the traditional National and American Leagues, each containing two regional divisions.6 In the 1994 season, in order to add an extra playoff round to generate additional television revenues, the two leagues were divided into three regional divisions.7 Due to the 1994 MLB strike, however, the public did not have the opportunity to witness the new playoff format until 1995.8 In fact, the 1994 MLB strike marked the first time in the ninety-year history of the World Series that the winners of each league did not meet to determine the world championship. …

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