Umps change minds, retract lawsuit

Their last hope to stop 22 resignations is NLRB

Crawford urges solidarity

August 11, 1999|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

While the umpires union shut down its lawsuit against the National and American leagues, the union president opened the door yesterday for dissident umpires to return to the fight against Major League Baseball.

Acknowledging that the umpires had become splintered over the union's mass-resignation strategy, Jerry Crawford, the union president, appealed to the umpires in a letter asking that they return to their solidarity position, in which they supported "those members whose rights and jobs were attacked by baseball."

Twenty-two umpires, 13 in the National League and nine in the American League, face the end of their careers three weeks from tomorrow, the effective date of the letters of resignation most of them signed July 14, then rescinded July 27.

The umpires withdrew their resignations after Judge Edmund Ludwig of U.S. District Court in Philadelphia failed to grant them an order protecting their jobs. The union subsequently filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board and announced yesterday that it had withdrawn the lawsuit on Monday so it could focus on the labor board charges.

The union announcement also said it withdrew the lawsuit because the issues had changed since the suit was filed. The union acted before the leagues filed a motion to dismiss the suit on the grounds that the issues it raised belong before the labor board or an arbitrator.

The union held out the possibility that it could refile a lawsuit next week dealing with different issues. But it is also pressing its case before the labor board.

Richie Phillips, the union chief, said that Susan Davis, the New York lawyer handling the union's case, submitted a 12-page outline of the union's case on Monday. "We all feel that very compelling arguments were set forth in that outline," Phillips said.

Crawford set forth some strong arguments of his own in his letter to the umpires, a copy of which was obtained by the Times.

As examples of union solidarity, the veteran NL umpire cited cases involving John Hirschbeck and Joe Brinkman, the AL umpires considered the leaders of the dissident faction, the 24 umpires who didn't resign or rescinded their resignations in time to save their jobs.

"When Roberto Alomar spit on one of our members," Crawford wrote, referring to Hirschbeck and a 1996 incident, "this union and its membership stood together in support.

"Likewise, when baseball considered firing one of our members last fall," Crawford continued, referring to Brinkman, "we again were all prepared to do what was necessary to back him."

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