Labor talks may resume tomorrow in Washington

October 18, 1994|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Sun Staff Writer

Former Labor Secretary William Usery has taken over the scheduling of the baseball labor negotiations and apparently will move the talks to Washington.

Sources on both sides of the labor dispute indicated that the next bargaining session -- originally scheduled for today in New York -- will take place in Washington tomorrow, but it is not known whether all the negotiations will be held in the nation's capital.

That would mesh with Usery's style of mediation. He has a reputation for keeping the bargaining units at the table for long hours, and may believe that moving both sides out of New York will raise the discomfort level to a point where they will be more receptive to a compromise.

So far, there has been no indication that the players union or the owners' Player Relations Committee has anything new to bring to the bargaining table. The owners still appear intent on imposing a salary cap. The players remain adamant that they will stay on strike well into next season if that happens.

The level of animosity rose again Saturday, when four players who attempted to file for free agency were rebuffed by management because the service time they lost during the strike left them short of the necessary six years for eligibility. The Major League Baseball Players Association isn't going to accept that without a fight.

"I've spoken to the PRC on their theory on why those free agents aren't eligible," said union associate general counsel Gene Orza. "It's clear that we will have to challenge that."

The owners also figure to touch off a legal skirmish if they go through with their threat to impose a 45-day freeze on all off-season business. Management counsel Chuck O'Connor informed union director Donald Fehr last week that the owners reserved the right to impose the freeze whether the players agreed to it or not, but they have not yet put it into effect.

The union probably would charge that such an action constitutes a form of collusion, and would challenge it with a grievance or use it to further the attempt to undermine baseball's antitrust exemption.

Union lawyers already have filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board over the $7.8 million in All-Star Game proceeds that the owners withheld from the union pension fund. There also are a number of lesser grievances pending, but there is some question whether the system for arbitrating them is still in effect nearly 10 months after the last labor agreement expired.

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