The Major League Baseball Players’ Association has distributed a 36-page guide to prepare players and their agents for the possibility of a lockout when the collective agreement expires Dec. 1 at 11:59 p.m. ‘East.
The guide, obtained by the Southern California News Group, addresses issues such as whether players are able to play overseas if there is no major league season, whether they will be tested for doping during a lockdown and how to save money in case their paychecks stop. .
The mere existence of such a document indicates the growing likelihood of a work stoppage in December. If no agreement is reached before the deadline, player transactions will be suspended. Only the minor league portion of the annual winter meetings would be held Dec. 5-9 in Orlando. And the weather would start to turn at the start of spring training next February, with the financial mechanisms of the entire baseball industry in limbo.
The last work stoppage in MLB was the 1994-95 players’ strike. With no recent professional baseball history to rely on, the guide draws some of its answers from lessons learned from work stoppages in the NFL and NHL.
For example: the MLBPA “will take the position, consistent with other athletic unions in previous lockouts, that a player who is injured and unable to play at the time of the lockout must receive his salary and have access to a drug rehab until medically cleared.”
The guide also cites precedents in the NFL and NHL to state that it is “unlikely” that MLB could administer drug tests during a work stoppage.
According to the guide, the Players Association will use funds from its reserves to pay for continued health benefit coverage for players on the 40-player roster “if a strike or lockout is in progress when the 2022 season is due. to start”.
As required by the current CBA, MLB provided a 2022 schedule this summer. The first spring training exhibition games are scheduled for Feb. 25. The opening day of the regular season is March 31.
The guide states that players can play in independent and foreign leagues during a lockout, but are not allowed to practice at team facilities or at team-sponsored practices unless they don’t rehabilitate a baseball injury.
Players cannot be opted or outright transferred to the minor leagues during a work stoppage, effectively freezing 40-player rosters in place until a new CBA is agreed.
The guide also addresses concerns about less visible collectively bargained benefits:
• Retirement Benefits: Active players on the 40-player roster will not earn service time toward their pensions during a strike or lockout, but eligible inactive players will continue to receive payments during any work stoppages.
• Health Benefits: MLBPA is not legally able to pay for coverage for inactive players (not on the 40-man roster) during a work stoppage to compensate for the loss of one-third of the subsidy that would otherwise be paid by club contributions. That means inactive players who choose to stay on the MLBPA health plan could see their premiums increased until a work stoppage is resolved.
• Licensing Agreements: To prepare for a potential work stoppage, players voted in 2018 to withhold all licensing checks paid to the MLBPA beginning that year.
• Executive Salaries: If players do not receive their scheduled paychecks, MLBPA senior executives will not receive their paychecks from then on and for the duration of any work stoppage.
• Lost Duty Time: Any lost duty time credit due to a work stoppage should be part of a negotiated settlement at the end of the work stoppage.
• Unemployment compensation: Many states provide benefits to locked-out workers, but may impose requirements such as proof of looking for other work. States generally do not provide unemployment benefits to striking employees.
• Foreign work visas: International players who are already in the United States on a P-1 or O-1 visa when a lockdown begins do not violate the terms of their visa. However, players could have their visa revoked if they are not in the United States by December 1.
Finally, the guide outlines the MLBPA’s priorities for this round of collective bargaining. “A broad assessment of our industry shows that player value and compensation are not moving in the right direction,” it read. “We have fundamental concerns about the integrity of the system as it currently operates.”
• Incentive competition: “We continue to see clubs openly choosing a model of sustained loss while reaping economic benefits. Winning at all levels must have value, otherwise our system will not work.
• Ensuring the most talented players are on the pitch: “Our game is at its best when the best players are on the pitch, regardless of their age, experience or length of service. Clubs continue to keep the best players off the pitch, simply to manipulate service time. This fundamentally undermines the integrity of sport.
• Reduce artificial restrictions on remuneration: “Restrictions such as the Competitive Balance Tax (CBT) and Draft Pick Compensation continue to affect the way clubs compete for players and provide convenient excuses for clubs to justify their lack of of competitiveness. These artificial brakes on the remuneration of players must be resolved.
• Valuing players earlier in their career: “For decades, our reserve system has been separated into three main groups: pre-arbitrated players who earn close to minimum wage, players eligible for salary arbitration and agents free. Recent industry trends show that more and more on-field value is being created by young players whose salaries are artificially suppressed by the reserve system. The system needs to be modernized so players can be compensated for the value they create, WHEN THEY CREATE IT.