"These People Aren't Very Big on Player Reps" 1: Career Length, Mobility, and Union Activism in Major League Baseball
Donald A. Coffin
The Labor-Management Relations Act explicitly protects union members, and more specifically union activists, against differential or discriminatory treatment by employers. 2 Discharge of an employee because of that employee's union activity is prohibited, as are certain transfers or disciplinary actions. This does not, however, eliminate concerns among employees that union activities may lead to employer retaliation. Indeed, the long-time executive director ( Marvin Miller) of the Major League Baseball (MLB) Players' Association has made it clear that he believes that owners of MLB clubs frequently take actions to shorten the careers of player representatives, or to rid themselves of the player reps by trading their contracts to other clubs. 3
Although the number of cases cited by Miller may be limited, and although there may be differing interpretations of these cases, he raises an interesting and difficult issue. All players see their careers end, generally while they are still younger than forty. Almost all players move between teams during their careers. Disentangling the causes of the end of a career, or of a particular player move, is difficult. Nonetheless, the larger questions (Are player reps treated differently? Do they have shorter careers? Do they move between teams more often?) may be approach for statistically, rather than anecdotally.
This chapter examines the length of the careers of player reps and of other players and the frequency with which player reps and others move between teams. Assuming Miller is correct, the initial hypotheses are first, that player reps will have shorter careers after having controlled for other factors affecting career length, and second, that player reps will move between teams more frequently after controlling for other factors affecting mobility.