SBD/Issue 205/Leagues & Governing Bodies

Weiner Calls Maintaining Player Unity Top Priority As MLBPA Boss

MLBPA General Counsel Michael Weiner yesterday said his top priority for his forthcoming tenure as the union’s Exec Dir is to maintain player consensus -- a notion that has sharply eroded within the labor movements of most other American industries. Weiner said, “I think there’s really only one priority that the executive director of a labor union has, and that is to maintain the cohesiveness, the unity, the solidarity of the membership. To find out what the priorities have and to formulate a strategy for best pursuing those priorities. There’s a lot of other things the union does, and that will be my responsibility to oversee in terms of legal affairs and licensing and business affairs, but there’s really only one priority.” Echoed outgoing MLBPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr, who will leave the post no later than March after more than a quarter century, “Maintaining the trust and confidence of the players is absolutely critical. He does that, and I’m sure he will, and everything will fall into place after that.” Union leaders and a quartet of players yesterday met with media in St. Louis as this represents Fehr’s final All-Star Game on the job. The event is also the first MLB jewel event to occur since Fehr announced his intent last month to retire.

LOOKING FORWARD: As to the sport’s upcoming round of labor negotiations in '11, Weiner did not get into agenda specifics, but said generally of the upcoming talks, “It will be a challenge." Weiner: "Every round of talks is. And I expect this to be no different.” Asked if open tensions in the current labor situations surrounding the NFL and NBA would influence the baseball talks, Weiner said that would likely come into play more on the management side of the table, particularly as there is some cross-ownership. MLBPA COO Gene Orza, meanwhile, said he expects to maintain his role following Weiner’s formal ascent. “Those of us on staff serve at the pleasure of the executive director, and once Mike takes the job, I will serve at his,” Orza said. Weiner has been unanimously recommended by the union’s executive board to take the Exec Dir job, and the players will vote on the move over the summer. Completion of that step is expected to occur by the end of the season (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal). MLB.com's Ian Browne noted both Weiner and Fehr expect the transition "to be seamless." Although many MLBPA members are "already familiar with Weiner, he will formally meet with as many players as he can during these weeks of transition." Several players yesterday indicated that they "look forward to a stable changing of the guard" (MLB.com, 7/13). 

TOUGH ISSUE TO TACKLE: The AP's Ronald Blum reported several free agents are "pushing the union to file a collusion grievance against teams over their behavior during the free-agent market last winter." Agent Jeff Boris said, "There's a general level of suspicion in the air." The "decision on whether to go ahead with a grievance will be one of the first major decisions for the union" since Fehr announced his retirement. Weiner yesterday said, "The investigation is ongoing but not complete because of things to review. We've had some discussions with the commissioner's office. I'll know more, I think, by the end of the month." Agent Seth Levinson said, "There are too many things that need to be explained. In my experience, there are no coincidences in a monopoly" (AP, 7/13).

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