“An incredible moment for the labor movement” – Chicago Tribune

WASHINGTON — The Major League Baseball Players’ Association is joining the AFL-CIO in a bid to strengthen its position in the wake of one labor struggle and in the midst of another.

Executive Director Tony Clark made the announcement Wednesday alongside AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler at an event at the National Press Club, discussing the MLBPA’s attempt to unionize minor leaguers following a a nearly 100-day lockout that delayed the start of the season.

Clark cited lessons learned from 2020, when minor league baseball was not played, as a major impetus for the move.

“Over the past two years, our experiences have suggested that now is the time to have this conversation,” he said. “We are now in a world where strengthening our organization, strengthening our fraternity of players by uniting the minor leaguers under our umbrella, as well as joining the AFL-CIO and doing it alongside our brothers and sisters who are part of the labor movement, together we will navigate this chaos, and together we will work through it.

Shuler called it “an incredible moment for the labor movement.” Clark said baseball players want to strengthen their organization by supporting minor leaguers and being part of the AFL-CIO.

The MLBPA is the 58th union to affiliate with the AFL-CIO, the largest labor federation in the United States with 12.5 million members. The AFL-CIO Sports Council already included player associations from the NFL, National Women’s Soccer League, United Soccer League and US Women’s National Team.

The International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees, whose members help broadcast and organize major league games, expressed support for the move.

“Today’s announcement was a game-win for the players association,” President Matthew D. Loeb said in a statement. “We look forward to working in solidarity with the MLBPA to enhance both the fan experience and the professional lives of our members.”

The MLPBA on Tuesday asked management to voluntarily accept the union as the minor leaguers’ bargaining agent. Bruce Meyer, the union’s deputy executive director, sent a letter to MLB Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem saying a majority of about 5,400 minor leaguers had signed clearance cards.

Clark repeated that claim on Wednesday, saying “thousands” of cards had been turned over.

The MLBPA, which reached its first major league collective bargaining agreement in 1968, launched the minor league organizing campaign on August 28. Players on minor league contracts, who earn as little as $400 a week during the six-month season, would become theirs. bargaining unit within the MLBPA.

If MLB does not voluntarily accept the union, cards signed by 30% of the 5,000 to 6,500 minor leaguers in the bargaining unit would allow the union to file a petition with the National Labor Relations Board asking for an election of union authorization. A majority vote in an election would authorize union representation.

“We support the position of the MLBPA, and so we will bring the full breadth and depth of the labor movement to support them,” Shuler said. “And we hope the league will do the right thing.”

Baseball and the players agreed to the terms of a new collective bargaining agreement in March, ending the sport’s ninth work stoppage after 99 days and paving the way for a full 162-game regular season with one day opening postponed for a week.

Andrew B. Reiter