Baseball could have another labor dispute on its hands, with
its umpires. Richie Phillips, General Counsel of the umpires'
union, accused the American and National Leagues of failing to
bargain in good faith in a complaint filed with the NLRB.
Phillips said the leagues have notified the umpires, who are paid
year-round, that they will be locked out and will stop receiving
pay on January 1. The umpires' 4-year CBA expires December 31,
and Phillips said there has been no "substantive response" to a
proposal that would increase salaries 60% as well as increase the
postseason bonus pool. NL President Leonard Coleman: "We
reviewed their proposals with disbelief, regarding them as
extraordinary in their largess, given the realities of the day."
There have been nine bargaining sessions, but none are currently
scheduled (Ross Newhan, L.A. TIMES, 12/23). NL lawyer Bob Kheel
said no decision on a lockout has been made, but he noted that it
was an option (USA TODAY, 12/23).
The owners and players "failed to reach a bargaining
settlement before the midnight deadline established by the owners
last Friday." Conferring by telephone, the owners' Executive
Council responded by declaring an impasse and unilaterally
implementing their salary cap system. "It is certain to ignite a
bitter legal battle and jeopardize the 1995 season." MLBPA Exec
Dir Donald Fehr: "The owners will come to regret this -- sooner
than they realize" (Ross Newhan, L.A. TIMES, 12/23). The final
joint negotiating session "became so contentious that Special
Mediator William Usery decided it would be pointless to keep it
alive up to the deadline" (Peter Schmuck, Baltimore SUN, 12/23).
Dodger Owner Peter O'Malley does not completely support the new
system because of the absence of a provision insuring good
management among clubs receiving the benefits of revenue sharing:
"I still don't like the idea of sharing money with clubs like San
Diego and Milwaukee, where there has been no evidence of good
management" (L.A. TIMES, 12/23).
LAST-DITCH: Yesterday afternoon, the players made another
proposal that contained a secondary tax. But the owners said it
was insufficient, since only three teams would have had to pay a
10% marginal tax. Phillies Exec VP Dave Montgomery: "This
proposal, as far as we're concerned, brought us no closer to the
objectives we were talking about." Royals Player Rep David Cone:
"Anything short of a total collapse by the players would not have
gotten a deal done" (Mark Maske, WASHINGTON POST, 12/23). Selig:
"I can't tell you how disappointed we all are in their alleged
counterproposal. It was so unresponsive that it is like we were
back in June or July" (L.A. TIMES, 12/23). Fehr, on why their
latest proposal did not come until today: "It's not a proposal
that the players really wanted to make, because it goes against
what they wanted. They don't think they need taxes." Fehr noted
that the proposal was ready Wednesday night, but he said Usery
asked them to wait until Thursday ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 12/22).
NOW WHAT? The union plans to file an unfair labor practice
charge with the NLRB as early as today or Monday. Usery will
speak with Labor Secretary Robert Reich to determine whether
Usery should remain involved in the dispute (Mark Maske,
WASHINGTON POST, 12/23).
BOSNIA, NORTH KOREA, HAITI ... NOW BASEBALL? Jimmy Carter,
the world's "foremost peacemaker," has offered his services as a
mediator. Fehr spoke to Carter yesterday: "I'm very appreciative
of his interest, but at this point, I don't know what it will
mean." Usery said he would welcome Carter's help, but added:
"The only thing I didn't think we needed was another mediator"
(I.J. Rosenberg, ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 12/23). Likewise, acting
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig told Carter "no thanks" (USA TODAY,
NHL owners and players did not meet yesterday in either full
or lower-level negotiations, and there were no indications that
the two sides would get together again until after Christmas. On
his way to a few days off in Hawaii, Maple Leafs President & GM
Cliff Fletcher said next week is the last chance. Fletcher: "No
deal next week, no season. It can't be done outside next week."
But other sources insist that talks could carry into the first
week of January and a deal still be cut to start a 50-game season
10 days later (Lance Hornby, TORONTO STAR, 12/23). Once again,
reports from coast-to-coast, in the U.S. and Canada, range from
bleak pessimism to outright optimism. A SAMPLING:
BOSTON HERALD: For the first time since the labor dispute
began, Bruins GM Harry Sinden predicted there will be no season
(Stephen Harris, BOSTON HERALD, 12/23).
CANADIAN PRESS: Alan Adams reports that one "influential
team president" objects to the league's position that there was
no official offer of a no-tax proposal -- insisting instead that
any such discussion was carried out on a "conceptual level." The
team official said: "If this is not a proposal, then why did
they call me last week to ask my opinion. Of course it is a
proposal" (OTTAWA CITIZEN, 12/23).
CHICAGO TRIBUNE: At the Blackhawks annual Christmas party,
Chris Chelios "chatted amiably" with team owner Bill Wirtz.
Chelios had earlier threatened Gary Bettman. Wirtz: "We have
our differences, but what's that got to do with Christmas?"
(Robert Markus, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 12/23).
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Cam Cole writes, "Even if there's no no-
tax proposal on paper, you can be pretty sure one was floated
verbally to the players in last week's low-level negotiations;
and the league's denial simply means it can't stand to be scooped
on its own story. Wouldn't that be something? The governors
have been carrying this big stick around, and it may turn out yet
that they have no intention of using it" (SOUTHAM NEWS/OTTAWA
L.A. TIMES: Helene Elliott reports, "Two league sources
said that as long as talks continue, even sporadically,
Commissioner Gary Bettman will not exercise his power to cancel
the season" (L.A. TIMES, 12/23).
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks writes that there will be a
season starting either the weekend of January 6 or 13. With the
owners apparently ready to trade their tax for further
concessions, "the negotiations now will focus on restrictions
within Group II salary arbitration. The league will insist that
players do not become eligible for arbitration their first season
out of the three-year entry-level cap; they will insist that only
Group II contracts be admissible as comparables; they will insist
on the elimination of the option year in the contract, which had
given players arbitration rights both going into and coming out
of that season; and they will insist on non-binding, walkaway
arbitration." Brooks adds to expect a trade next week in which
the owners give up right-to-match for Group II free agents and
the players agree to "walkaway" arbitration -- in which a team
can release a player instead of accepting an arbitration award
(N.Y. POST, 12/23).
SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS: Sharks Owner George Gund believes
both sides are close to settling. Gund: "They are very, very
close to a deal .... I expect they will be on the ice in about
three weeks" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 12/23).
TORONTO STAR: Damien Cox writes, "The last thing Bettman
wants is to swing a deal that leaves a dozen owners feeling
shortchanged, so for a proposal to go out without a tax attached,
it would need to have enough significant player concessions that
the hardliners won't squawk too loudly. Similarly, the more
moderate types don't want to see the season cancelled over a
payroll tax system that many of them don't believe would work in
the interests of ownership anyway" (TORONTO STAR, 12/23).
VANCOUVER PROVINCE: Gordon McIntyre responds to holiday
season comparisons of Gary Bettman to The Grinch and Bob Goodenow
to Ebenezer Scrooge: "The Grinch and Scrooge, after all, had
changes of heart before it was too late" (Vancouver PROVINCE,
WASHINGTON TIMES: Dave Fay takes a position similar to
yesterday's N.Y. POST report -- that the owners' insistence on a
tax has been part of plan to exact concessions on other fronts.
"When the hockey players sit down and reflect on it, they will
realize how badly they have had their pockets picked" (WASHINGTON