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The Major League Baseball Players Association Essay

The Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) is the union of professional baseball players in the major league. The Association plays the role of collective bargaining for all major league players and it is also the representative for players that need salary arbitration. Like any other union, MLBPA defends the rights of its members and functions in order to protect the players’ best interest. One of the attributions of the MLBPA is that of making sure that the conditions for playing are in accordance with the Association’s safety guidelines.

A union of professional baseball players was necessary for promoting the interests of the players and so unions acting in the benefit of professional players were created almost from the very beginning of the history of baseball as a sport. MLBPA does not represent the first union of baseball players, as previous attempts included the Brotherhood of Professional Baseball Players (founded in 1885), Players Protective Association (1900), Fraternity of Professional Baseball Players of America (1912), or American Baseball Guild (1946) (Major League Baseball Players Association, 2007).

The basis of MLBPA was set by the formation of the American Baseball Guild which was created by labor lawyer Robert Murphy (Haupert, 2003). The major change that was the outcome of the Guild was that the standard labor contract of players was changed in the benefit of the players since before this change the contracts were very much dictated by owners (Haupert, 2003). Although the Guild was unsuccessful in forming a union, it did bring a great deal of change in the way players’ contracts and rights were being handled.

MLBPA is currently the baseball players’ organization and the outcome of this association is the result of the changes that took place in the unionization of baseball players. The union was formed in 1954, but it “remained in the background until the players hired Marvin Miller in 1966 to head the organization” (Haupert, 2003). This was the decisive step in the future of the union of baseball players. Miller was a former negotiator for the US steel workers and this experience was used with success in the interest of baseball players (Haupert, 2003).

The leadership of Marvin Miller and his influence was very usefull for the interest of MLBPA. His skills turned out to exceed those of the owners as he managed to change the rules of the game and represent the players in gaining what was theirs. He managed to control the power that owners had on the players and trough his tough practices to make the opinion of players matter in matters of trade and such (Rockford). Miller’s leadership had a great impact on the unionization of baseball players as his lead brought the most important changes in the life of professional baseball players.

Marvin Miller retired in 1984 after managing to put an end to the reserve clause, to ensure the right of free movement from team to team, to gain a great raise in the salary of baseball players (Rockford). Other important changes that were conducted and influenced by Miller’s organizational skills referred to a greater implication of the union in labor disputes, to the creation of a pension fund sponsored mainly from percentages of television revenue.

But the most important accomplishment of Miller’s leadership was that the union was recognized and also the right of players to be represented in negotiations by a collective organization was also recognized (Rockford). Marvin Miller is responsible for making baseball a business profitable both for owners and players. The current leader of MLBPA, Don Fehr, was hired by Miller in 1977 as general counsel and after the retirement of Miller he was chosen by the players to represent them as executive director of MLBPA (Haupert, 2003).

Fehr’s influence was noticeable for following the policies of his predecessor, continuing the road chosen by Miller. Fehr’s accomplishments are shown in his role of negotiator in collective bargaining with major league owners and in “administering contracts, grievance arbitration, and pension and health care matters” (Schwarz, 2003). His mission leading the union was even harder that expected because he was replacing a legend, the man that built the union and that had lead it successfully for such a long time.

Even so, Fehr was successful in leading the union and in defending the interest of the players. “The average salary of a major leaguer has gone from $ 185,000 in 1981 to $2. 47 million in 2005. ” (Cooper, 2006) MLBPA managed to use the changes made by former unions or associations of professional baseball players and managed to become today the strongest sports union around. Under the leadership of only two, but strong leaders, MLBPA has progressed greatly and this progress is first of all attributed to the leaders that had always had a coherent policy and strong faith in their mission.

Perhaps the key to the success of MLBPA is that its leaders have always tried to maintain a unity among the players and by keeping them together and focused on a common goal, they could accomplish the major growth in the baseball industry.


Cooper, J. J. , 25 for 25: Don Fehr, July 18, 2006, available at http://www. baseballamerica. com/today/majors/25thanniversary/print261957. html; – Haupert, Michael. The Economic History of Major League Baseball. EH. Net Encyclopedia, edited by Robert Whaples. August 27, 2003. available at http://eh.

net/encyclopedia/article/haupert. mlb; – History of the Major League Baseball Players Association, available at http://mlbplayers. mlb. com/pa/info/history. jsp; – Major League Baseball Players Association, 2007, available at http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Major_League_Baseball_Players_Association; – Rockford, Warner Oliver, Marvin Miller, available at http://www. baseballlibrary. com/baseballlibrary/ballplayers/M/Miller_Marvin. stm; – Schwarz, Alan, One on One: Don Fehr, July 1, 2002, available at http://www. baseballamerica. com/today/features/fehr070102. html;

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