With the flares of a strained relationship between the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) and the 30 owners in baseball, there have been two very vocal members who are standing up for the rights of players. One is the closer for the Washington Nationals, Sean Doolittle, and the other, is former New York Yankees outfielder Slade Heathcott. Doolittle has been an outspoken member on the players’ view of the situation. Heathcott focuses on the tribulation of Minor League Baseball players, who do not even get minimum wage. The answer is clear; these two should be running the MLBPA.
Rob Manfred: "I reject the notion that payroll is a good measure for how much a team is trying or how successful that team is going to be."
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 17, 2019
Right now, the 30 owners of Major League Baseball, most of which are multi-billionaires, have convinced the average uneducated fans that the players are the problem in baseball. Players make too much money and therefore we have to keep raising our prices to pay for them. Teams are tearing down rosters to bare bones and paying bare bones to the free agent market. Players are being forced into early retirement or taking minor league deals when they deserve much more. This is more than clearly wrong.
Minor League players have it rough. 2018 marked the passage of the “Save America’s Pastime Act”, a bipartisan bill that allowed minor league players to receive below minimum wage seasonal salaries. Minor League Baseball has turned into a labor nightmare. Players have to scrounge money together to live together, just get through day to day life with an income that is not federally protected, but federally mandated. Slade Heathcott, the former Yankees outfielder, helped start More Than Baseball, an organization to help pay for equipment and living standards for minor league players, along with a post-retirement future with former Mets minor leaguer Jeremy Wolf.
The obvious problem on the minor league side is that the MLBPA does not include their minor league brethren. That needs to change. With very few exceptions, all Major League Baseball players active and former were in the minor league at one point in their career. Some may have been so-called “bonus babies”, but many had to work with little money to make their career stand. While many players in the majors make millions, there are quite a few others who will never see that kind of money. While joining the MLBPA would not guarantee that kind of money, getting minor leaguers, who are paid adults working for a company just like the rest of us, to above minimum wage should be possible. If not, the solution is to form their own union. This would be in defiance of the “Save America’s Pastime Act” and set up a Collective Bargaining Agreement.
MLB has an exclusive deal with New Era to make our on-field hats in the US. But now New Era is planning to close its factory in NY next month and eliminate 200 union jobs in favor of non-union (cheaper) labor. #NewEraHatsOff pic.twitter.com/V0G4vCLaud
— Sean Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) February 18, 2019
On the major league side, Sean Doolittle and his wife, Eireann Dolan, have been vocal in fighting for the active MLB players and their salaries that they want. However, Sean and Eireann have also been dedicating their time to the common man. In 2018, New Era Cap announced they would be closing their hat plant in Derby, New York (a southwestern suburb of Buffalo) in favor of their plant in Florida. Under this decision, 200+ unionized workers are slated to lose their jobs as the work is shifted to a non-union plant. However, Doolittle and Dolan’s work has come a bit late as a deal was made with the 200+ workers losing their jobs due for March 15. That said, Doolittle’s efforts to speak out against the undeserved negativity is something the MLBPA needs.
With the MLBPA and MLB CBA due up soon, one must wonder why the union extended Tony Clark, the president. Tony Clark has not played baseball since 2009. Clark has the strength in helping the quality of life for players. However, his work has given MLB incredible power over the unionized players. One would argue that the late Marvin Miller and Michael Weiner would have made sure this was not possible. With a looming fight over the next CBA due, maybe it is time to shift to a new leader. This leader should be someone active in the current baseball community. This would mean Sean Doolittle should take the role as the new MLBPA head with the CBA coming up.
This stuff matters to this writer, as someone who knows a ton about labor history. For over 100 years Americans have been fighting to get proper wages for everyone. Members of what were considered Anarchists, Socialists, and Communists from 1887 to 1955 were different. All three evolved from the European-born laborists who came to America for the idea of a brighter and better future. Their work got us child labor laws, the 8-hour work days and so on. They fought through incredible amounts of life-threatening hell to get what they deserved.
To see that MLB, MiLB, and Commissioner Rob Manfred are not open to admitting they will not fork over big salaries anymore in the face of analytics tells you that they are the problem. Much like the last 100 years, the idea of greed takes hold over producing the best product possible. So while you are forking over $200 to have the average four-person family to see single baseball game, the owners are still making billions. This needs to stop here. Fans and the players need to step up and make things right. That requires new leadership.
This is why Sean Doolittle and Slade Heathcott should be leading the MLBPA.
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