Selig-Fehr dialogue fails to create breakthrough

March 22, 1995|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Sun Staff Writer

Interim baseball commissioner Bud Selig and Major League Baseball Players Association director Donald Fehr met for the second straight day in Washington, but the talks apparently provided no basis for resuming full-scale collective bargaining.

"We had two days of intense and constructive discussions," jTC Selig said before returning to his home in Milwaukee. "The parties will be back in touch with [special mediator] Bill Usery shortly."

The Associated Press, quoting two sources with knowledge of the meetings, reported that Selig talked about the owners raising their tax rates and thresholds, not lowering them to move closer to the union.

The meetings were arranged in a last-ditch bid to jump-start negotiations and move toward a settlement while there still is time to salvage the first part of the 1995 season. Selig and Fehr met over dinner Monday night and resumed discussions yesterday, but there was no breakthrough.

It apparently was a minor upset that the meetings stretched into a second day. Sources indicated Selig was ready to go home Monday night, but was persuaded to stay an extra day in the hope that something constructive could be accomplished.

A management source, however, told the New York Daily News that the meetings were "a total disaster."

Time is running out on the possibility of a settlement that would keep the regular season relatively intact. There is no way that the season could start on time with major-league players, but the start of the season could be delayed a couple of weeks without seriously damaging the integrity of the divisional races.

The negotiations were scheduled to resume last week, but the talks were postponed when National Labor Relations Board general counsel Fred Feinstein summoned representatives of both sides to Washington to announce that the board would issue an unfair labor practices complaint against the owners. There was speculation that full-scale negotiations would resume this week in Washington or New York, but again the negotiating teams appear to be withdrawing to their separate corners.

Usery encouraged the owners to prepare a new proposal, but management refused to do so, citing the NLRB ruling as the reason. Ownership representatives say privately that they have made most of the concessions during the course of the negotiations and have grown tired of bidding against themselves.

Union leaders voiced frustration two weeks ago when they twice made concessions in Scottsdale, Ariz., and got a watered-down version of the Usery recommendation as the ownership response.

Nothing substantive has happened since. There still is the possibility that bargaining could resume later this week, but the two-day meeting between Fehr and Selig obviously did not jump-start talks.

The players can hold out hope that their bargaining position will improve as the dispute plays out on a couple of governmental fronts, but the NLRB may not act in time to be of much help.

Meanwhile, a federal appeals court ruling yesterday in an NFL case could affect the baseball union's strategy. The players association has sought the removal of baseball's antitrust exemption, hoping that a subsequent antitrust lawsuit could force a favorable settlement of the strike. However, the court ruled in the NFL case yesterday that unions can't file antitrust suits against employers.

So, even if baseball's exemption were gone, players couldn't file an antitrust suit unless they first decertified their union.

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