MLBPA failures became evident on Tuesday in comments made by MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred. Specifically, the union has failed to educate its membership and negotiate responsibly for its constituency in the new collective bargaining agreement that came into effect this past December.
MLBPA Failures Evident in Rob Manfred’s Comments About the New CBA
Speaking to the media on Tuesday, Manfred laid out a new power granted to the owners in the new CBA.
And Manfred then reveals a new chestnut in new labor deal: a unilateral ability by the league to impose rules changes as soon as next yr
— Eric Fisher (@EricFisherSBJ) February 21, 2017
For clarity, this doesn’t give the owners carte blanche leverage to amend the CBA or its various parts between the league and its players, but does allow them to change rules of game play. That’s still a tremendous amount of power for the union to simply concede, and raises concerns about the proverbial “slippery slope.”
How the MLBPA has Failed its Membership
Put plainly, it seems that the owners were the only party paying attention to the National Football League’s “Deflategate” drama, and the union was either ignorant or oblivious. Perhaps emboldened by the United States Second District Court of Appeals ruling giving NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell god-like power, MLB owners have taken a similar position of unchecked power.
The fact that the MLBPA agreed to this aspect of the CBA demonstrates failure on two fronts: education and negotiation. The union failed in its negotiations of the current CBA in that it traded money for power. The oversight in this regard is that there was no reason to make that trade-off. The union could have had both.
When the new CBA was negotiated and ratified, there were no players or player representatives clamoring to the media about how the owners were trying to take sole control of the ability to make rule changes. This power simply slipped through their fingers silently. Perhaps that’s because MLB players didn’t understand or were unaware of what was going on.
The MLBPA also failed to educate its membership that not only is a balance between them and the owners necessary in terms of revenue, but also in terms of power. Many athletes are unaware of the importance of the “legal mumbo jumbo”. It’s the union’s responsibility to inform them. Once control of a major element of the business, like rule changes, is completely handed over, regaining that power is almost impossible.
The owners are now sharks that smell blood in the water. The next time a CBA is negotiated, what’s to stop the owners from taking sole control over more aspects of the business? Only a more savvy MLBPA can prevent that.
It’s the MLBPA’s responsibility to educate its membership about the importance or retaining as much control as possible and to actually negotiate a CBA that reflects that value. This particular clause of the current CBA, and its passage without as much as a flicker of opposition in the public eye, shows that the MLBPA is failing its membership on both counts.
The union has until the end of the 2021 season, when the current CBA expires, to improve its education and negotiation tactics. For the future of its constituency, it needs to begin that now.