Major League Baseball Umpires Resignation of 1999

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I- Introduction

On July 15th, fifty-seven Major League Baseball Umpires may have made the worst call of their careers. (Lasky, Matthew; FMEW; August 1999) After months of being unable to come to an agreement with Major League Baseball, the umpires decided to hand in their resignations, effective September 2nd. (White, Paul; USA Today; August 1999) Their resignations were a last ditch attempt to get Major League Baseball back to the negotiating table, with the sole purpose of signing a new contract. (Lasky, Matthew; FMEW; August 1999) Since there was a “no strike clause” written into the current contract, the umpires had no other choice but to resign. (Lasky, Matthew; FMEW; August 1999) Major League Baseball, knowing they would face possible lawsuits by the umpires, accepted the resignations and began hiring replacements. (Lasky, Matthew; FMEW; August 1999) Twenty-two umpires were terminated and their positions filled with replacement umpires. … “Some veteran umpires almost immediately changed their minds and reversed their positions, creating a fissure that undermined their negotiating system”. (Chass, Murray; New York Times; July 29, 1999) As a result, the twenty-two terminated umpires sued Major League Baseball, claiming an unfair labor practice as made “for unlawfully discharging” them. (Lasky, Matthew; FMEW; August 1999) The umpires brought their case to the National Labor Relation Board, where it was reviewed for several weeks. (Lasky, Matthew; FMEW; August 1999) The National Labor Relation Board found no evidence that an unfair labor practice had been made, and did not order Major League Baseball to reinstate the twenty-two umpires. (Lasky, Matthew; FMEW; August 1999) This was a victory for Major League Baseball, and “for the first time in Major League Baseball history, it will be the umpires and not the players that strike out.” (Lasky, Matthew; FMEW; August 1999) II- How Did It All Happen

The whole situation began well before July 15th, “a fight between baseball officials and the umpires has been brewing since early this year.” (Chass, Murray; New York Times; July 15, 1999) The trouble began brewing as early as 1996, when Roberto Alomar spat in the face of Umpire John Hirschbeck, for his deed, Alomar was suspended for only five games, a punishment not suited to the crime in the eyes of the Umpires. (Wendel, Tim; USA Today; August 1999) The umpires threatened to strike at that time, because they felt disrespected by the players, as well as the league officials who handed down the lenient Alomar decision. (Wendel, Tim; USA Today; August 1999) The deciding point for the Umpires came well before the 1999 baseball season ever began. (Wendel, Tim; USA Today; August 1999) In February of 1999, Sandy Alderson, the Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations in the Commissioner’s Office and foe to the union, began complaining about the strike zone and wanted to start using amateurs in team offices to monitor pitches. (Chass, Murray; New York Times; July 16, 1999) This was only the beginning of the upset between the Umpires and League Officials. (Chass, Murray; New York Times; July 16, 1999)

III- The Battle Over Terms

The Umpires weren’t only upset over Alderson’s dispute over the strike zone, but were worried about keeping their jobs. (Lasky, Matthew; FMEW; August 1999) There was “Union-wide speculation over a lockout and mass firings following the December 31st expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement between Major League Baseball and the Major League Umpires Association…” (Lasky, Matthew; FMEW; August 1999) Current negotiations have stalled, because both sides couldn’t agree on the terms for a new contract. (Wendel, Tim; USA Today; August 1999) The Umpires had many unresolved issues they wanted to be met before any contract could be agreed upon. (Chass, Murray; New York Times: July 28, 1999) The Umpires constantly argued with Major League Officials over the strike zone. (Chass, Murray;...
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