Key people and background in MLB labor negotiations

Nov 29, 2021, 12:17 AM | Updated: 2:19 pm
FILE - Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred, left, and Major League Baseball Players Association execu...

FILE - Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred, left, and Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Tony Clark speak before Game 1 in baseball's World Series between the Houston Astros and the Atlanta Braves, Oct. 26, 2021, in Houston. A five-year contract between MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Association expires at 11:59 p.m. EST on Dec. 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Ron Blum, File)

(AP Photo/Ron Blum, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — Key people and background in Major League Baseball’s labor negotiations:

COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AGREEMENT

A five-year contract between MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Association expires at 11:59 p.m. EST on Dec. 1.

HISTORY

MLB had five strikes and three lockouts from 1972 to 1995, including a 7 1/2-month strike in 1994-95 that caused the World Series to be canceled for the first time since 1904, but reached agreements without a stoppage in 2002, ’06, ’11 and ’16.

REPRESENTING MANAGEMENT

ROB MANFRED

Now 63, completing seventh year as commissioner. Succeeded Bud Selig as baseball’s 10th commissioner in January 2015. A 1980 graduate of Cornell and a 1983 graduate of Harvard Law School, he clerked for U.S. District Judge Joseph L. Tauro in Massachusetts. Manfred became involved in baseball in 1987, when he was an associate at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius and the firm was retained as counsel for MLB’s Player Relations Committee. He assisted on collective bargaining during the 1990 spring-training lockout and the 1994-95 strike, then became MLB’s executive vice president for labor relations and human resources in 1998. He was promoted to EVP of economics and league affairs in 2012 and to chief operating officer in September 2013. He led negotiations for labor deals in 2002 and 2006 with then-COO Bob DuPuy and headed talks in 2011.

DAN HALEM

Took over as MLB’s chief negotiator ahead of talks leading to the 2016 agreement after serving as No. 2 negotiator. The 55-year-old is a 1988 graduate of Cornell and 1991 graduate of Harvard Law School, was a partner in the labor and employment law department at Proskauer Rose and was an outside counsel to MLB in collective bargaining and salary arbitration. He was hired as MLB’s senior vice president and general counsel for labor in September 2007 to replace Frank Coonelly, who left to become Pittsburgh Pirates president. Halem was promoted to executive vice president for labor relations in December 2013, chief legal officer in December 2014 and deputy commissioner for baseball administration in December 2017.

LABOR POLICY COMMITTEE

Sets bargaining strategy with Manfred and his staff. Colorado CEO Dick Montfort is chairman, joined by Milwaukee chairman Mark Attanasio, Texas chairman Ray Davis, San Diego vice chairman Ron Fowler, Boston principal owner John Henry, Minnesota chairman Jim Pohlad and New York Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner.

REPRESENTING PLAYERS

TONY CLARK

Now 49, Clark is the first player to head the union and the fifth executive director after Marvin Miller, Ken Moffett, Donald Fehr and Michael Weiner. A major leaguer from 1995-2009 and an All-Star first baseman in 2001, Clark was hired by the union as director of player relations in March 2010, assisted in collective bargaining in 2011 and was promoted to director of player services. Weiner, who took over from Fehr as executive director in December 2009, said in August 2012 that he had been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. Weiner’s symptoms increased in June 2013, and Clark was promoted to deputy executive director in July 2013. Weiner died that November and Clark was voted executive director by the union’s executive board that Dec 3.

BRUCE MEYER

Was hired in August 2018 as senior director of collective bargaining and legal and took over as chief negotiator from Rick Shapiro, who was senior adviser to the executive director and left the union in July 2019. Now 60, Meyer is a 1983 graduate of Penn and a 1986 graduate of Boston University School of Law. Was a partner at Weil, Gotshal & Manges from 1986-2016, representing the unions in the four major U.S. sports, including collective bargaining, then was senior director of collective bargaining, policy and legal for the NHL Players Association.

JEFFREY KESSLER

Made opening argument in grievance by players’ association over shortened 2020 season. Now 67, is co-executive chairman of Winston & Strawn and co-chair of its antitrust/competition and sports law practices. Longtime sports union outside counsel with a specialty in antitrust cases, was a key figure in McNeil v. NFL, Brady v. NFL, Fraser vs. MLS, Jenkins v. NCAA and currently Morgan vs. U.S. Soccer Federation. While he was at Weil, Gotshal & Manges from 1977-2003, Meyer worked with him on several cases.

MLBPA EXECUTIVE SUBCOMMITEE

Eight players sit on the union executive subcommittee and supervise negotiations: Yankees pitchers Zack Britton and Gerrit Cole, Houston catcher Jason Castro, Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor, Mets pitcher Max Scherzer, free agent pitchers Andrew Miller and James Paxton and free agent infielder Marcus Semien.

Britton, Cole, Lindor, Paxton and Scherzer are represented by Scott Boras, baseball’s most powerful agent.

Castro, at $3.5 million, is the only one of the eight who earned under $12 million this year. Just 86 players among 1,695 who played in the major leagues this season earned $12 million or more as of Aug. 31, including prorated shares of signing bonuses.

FEDERAL GOVERNMENT

NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD

Lauren M. McFerran (chairman), Gwynne A. Wilcox and David M. Prouty are the three Democratic appointees on the board, and John F. Ring and Marvin E. Kaplan are the Republican appointees.

Prouty served as chief labor counsel of the Major League Baseball Players Association from 2008-13 and general counsel from 2013-17, when he was replaced by Ian Penny. There is conflicting opinion whether Prouty would recuse himself from matters involving the players’ association.

JENNIFER ABRUZZO

Began work as NLRB general counsel on July 22 after she was appointed by President Joe Biden to a four-year term. Previously worked for the NLRB for more than 20 years as a field attorney, supervisory field attorney, deputy regional attorney, deputy assistant general counsel, deputy general counsel and acting general counsel. Before her appointment, she had been special counsel for strategic initiatives for the Communications Workers of America.

JOHN J. WALSH JR.

Appointed regional director of the NLRB’s Region 2 office in New York on Oct. 19, 2017. Joined the NLRB in 1978 as a cooperative education student and became field examiner in Region 29 in Brooklyn the following year. Became supervisory field examiner in 1990, assistant regional director in 1996, then assistant regional director in Region 22, Newark, New Jersey, in 2014. In January 2016 became regional director for Region 1 in Boston.

FEDERAL MEDIATION AND CONCILIATION SERVICE

An agency that provides assistance upon request to parties in collective bargaining. The director’s job is vacant and Javier Ramirez, who joined the FMCS staff in 2005 and is director of agency initiatives, has been nominated by President Joe Biden and is awaiting Senate confirmation.

LEGAL TERMS

LOCKOUT

Management’s equivalent of a strike. An employer-initiated work stoppage following the expiration of a collective bargaining agreement. MLB had lockouts in 1973, ’76 and ’90, the NFL in 2011, the NBA in 1996, 1998-99 and 2011, and the NHL in 1994-95, the entire 2004-05 season and 2012-13.

STATUS QUO

The NLRB has ruled, most recently in a 2019 decision, that “it is clear that, following the expiration of a collective bargaining agreement, an employer must maintain the status quo of all mandatory subjects of bargaining until the parties either agree on a new contract or reach a good-faith impasse in negotiations.” (Richfield Hospitality Inc. as Managing Agent for Kahler Hotels and Unite Here International Union Local 21)

10(j) INJUNCTION

Section 10(j) of the National Labor Relations Act authorizes the NLRB to request an injunction in U.S. District Court to stop unfair labor practices. When MLB instituted a signing freeze on Feb. 5, 1995, two days after the union ended its signing own freeze in response to new terms and conditions, the players’ association filed a new unfair labor practice charge with the NLRB’s New York office. The NLRB issued a complaint on March 14. NLRB general counsel Fred Feinstein asked for permission to seek an injunction, which the five-member NLRB board granted March 27 in a 3-2 vote with Democratic appointees in favor and Republican appointees opposed. U.S. District Judge Sonia Sotomayor granted the injunction on March 31, and owners voted two days later to accept the players’ unconditional offer to return to work.

UNION DISCLAIMER OF INTEREST

When a union gives up its collective bargaining rights, a tactic the NLRB affirmed in its 1965 decision in Rochelle Restaurant. The NFL Players Association and the National Basketball Players Association both used the tactic in 2011 during lockouts as an attempt around the 1996 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Pro Football Inc., which ruled federal labor laws create a nonstatutory antitrust exemption in a collective-bargaining situation. Kessler represented players in antitrust suits during both those lockouts.

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Key people and background in MLB labor negotiations