Interim baseball commissioner Bud Selig and a group of baseball owners presented their latest labor contract proposal to the Major League Baseball Players Association in New York yesterday and got a predictably icy response from union chief Donald Fehr.
The owners are attempting to rewrite the tentative agreement that was reached between Fehr and ownership negotiator Randy Levine -- an agreement that was rejected by the full ownership by an 18-12 margin in a ratification vote on Wednesday. The union has made it clear that it is not willing to make further concessions.
Selig presented a revised proposal that altered the length of the contract and increased the impact of the luxury-tax plan that has been under discussion in various forms for the past two years. The original deal called for three years of taxation on big-spending clubs, with the final year of the contract tax-free and the union retaining an option for one more tax-free year.
The owners would like to remove the option year and remove a cap on the number of teams that can be taxed for exceeding the luxury-tax threshold (proposed to be $51 million next year).
There also were proposed changes in an agreement to jointly seek an end to baseball's antitrust exemption as it applies to labor relations.
"The meeting was a very direct one," Levine said. "Bud described the clubs' position and Don responded to it. It was a civilized meeting, not a hostile one."
Fehr said: "They offered no justification of any kind for what they wanted. They were mute."
Fehr was anything but silent. He took the opportunity to remind the owners of the long history of labor unrest that has led up to the longest labor dispute in the history of professional sports and blasted Selig for failing to support the efforts of his chief negotiator.
Levine presumably was acting on the instructions of Major League Baseball's ruling executive committee when he brought negotiations to what he thought at the time was a successful conclusion, but the owners voted the contract down and Selig apparently voted with them. Levine, who was present at the meeting along with four other owners and three management lawyers, is expected to resign as management's chief labor negotiator later this week.
"We explained to him [Selig] that we are not going to renegotiate the agreement and I asked Bud why he was not backing his own negotiator," Fehr said.
Selig is expected to contact the union again today, but unless the owners back down and approve the deal as originally configured, it appears that Friday's deadline for getting an agreement that would affect this winter will pass, forcing both sides to live with the terms of the long-expired previous collective bargaining agreement for another year.
"As of Friday, things begin to unravel," Fehr said. "I've given up trying to predict what they'll do and I don't much care."
Pub Date: 11/12/96