MLB’s collective bargaining agreement with its players association will expire at 11:59 PM on Dec. 1st, 2021. It seems likely that the next step that will be followed is a lockout of the players that will lead to a complete shut down of the off season as well as prevent players from accessing any of the franchise’s facilities.
By the legal definition, a lockout is not the next step following the collapse of negotiations. When a CBA expires without another one in place, the vast majority of the terms from the expired contract continue until a new one is approved. Don’t believe me? Here’s the National Labor Relations Board’s explainer.
If a contract expires before the next contract is in place, almost all the terms of the expired contract continue while the parties bargain (the exceptions being union security, management rights, no-strike/no-lockout, and arbitration provisions).NLRB.gov
Per labor law, and standard practices, there doesn’t have to be a disruption to the work flow for both MLB’s players and its franchises.
A lockout is, by definition, a business led power play to try and tip the balance of power into its favor. The union’s counterbalance to that would be to vote to go onto a strike. Depending on terms of the CBA, there can be provisions to prevent a strike or lockout during the life of the contract — I have been unable to find any language of a no strike or lockout clause in the expiring baseball CBA — but those previsions are among those that do not continue once the CBA expires.
Which is why we’re here as baseball fans. With the current contract expiring, the owners are making a power play that they (believe) will do two things:
- Prevent the players from going on strike by preventing them from being able to work.
- Tip the negotiating power at the table into their hands and get all the leverage into their hands.
If the owners weren’t so intent on gaining all the leverage, then the general provisions of the expiring CBA would continue in place until a new one was agreed upon. This means that free agency would continue under the old rules, along with player arbitration and all of the other structures that owners have used to keep players cheap until their at the end of their athletic primes.
As someone who has worked through an union negotiations and an expired CBA, I can tell you that it’s not actually all that different as a union member. While the uncertainty of a potential strike or lockout loomed over our heads, we continued to go into the office to read our emails, answer calls, and process paperwork. This continued despite the fact that we overwhelmingly voted no on the company’s first CBA offer and even after I moved into a non-union job with the same company.
It took nearly seven months for the union I was apart of and my company to come to an agreement on a new CBA. And at no point was there any work stoppage — despite a lot of anger at the first offer from the company.
With the Dec. 1st deadline looming for MLB and its players, the reality is that a lockout purely is a move by the billionaires to gain even more leverage over their work force. This is despite all of the valid complaints that the players association has against the league’s current structure and how it handles service time.
If the owners go through with the lockout, they need to take the entirety of the blame. It’s really that simple.
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