SBD/6/Leagues Governing Bodies

BASEBALL HELD HOSTAGE -- DAY 148: DON'T HESITATE, LITIGATE!

     The MLBPA, in a letter to management attorney Chuck
O'Connor, said "that all unsigned players are entitled to
unrestricted free agency because owners improperly changed work
conditions and contract language when they implemented the
salary-cap system on December 23."  The union's case could affect
835 players.  MLBPA General Counsel Gene Orza:  "We'll pursue
this in court, in arbitration or any venue the owners desire."
O'Connor dismissed it as another anti-cap ploy:  "It's designed
to shake up the clubs, but it's something we anticipated.  We
probably will use the letter as further evidence of the union's
refusal to bargain collectively" (Ross Newhan, L.A. TIMES, 1/6).
"The two sides remained focused on litigating rather than
negotiating" (Mark Maske, WASHINGTON POST, 1/6). O'Connor said
arbitrator George Nicolau will not hear the dispute:  "The
grievance procedure is a creature of the contract.  We don't have
a contract so we don't have a grievance procedure. ... It will
wind up at the NLRB" (Murray Chass, N.Y. TIMES, 1/6).
     WASHINGTON WATCH:  White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta
said that President Clinton is "very concerned" about the lack of
progress in the dispute and that he plans to use "whatever kind
of influence he can bring" to find a solution.  Labor Secretary
Robert Reich, who met with Orza and MLBPA Exec Dir Don Fehr on
Wednesday, holds a similar meeting with acting Commissioner Bud
Selig, Rockies Chair Jerry McMorris and Red Sox CEO John
Harrington next week.  While Former President Jimmy Carter
offered his services as a mediator, the Clinton Administration,
which appointed special mediator William Usery in mid-October,
plans to stick with Usery (Mark Maske, WASHINGTON POST, 1/6).  Of
all the legislation offered during the opening days of the 104th
Congress aimed at repealing baseball's antitrust exemption, USA
TODAY's Hal Bodley writes that Rep. Pat Williams' (D-MT) bill has
the "best shot."  The Williams bill would subject both sides to
binding arbitration if there is no deal by February 1.  Fehr:  "I
don't know that one-year binding arbitration would be something
we would not consider" (USA TODAY, 1/6).  There is the
possibility that the deadline on Williams' bill could be pushed
back from February 1.
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