The second longest work stoppage in the history of Major League Baseball is over. After a 99-day lockout, MLB and the MLB Players Association reached a tentative agreement on March 10, coming to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement that will govern the game for the next five years. Importantly, the hurried, last-minute deal means a full, 162-game season will take place.
The result is surprising given the course of events over the past two weeks. On March 1, MLB cancelled each team’s first two series of the season after the MLBPA rejected the league’s proposal on an agreement following 16.5 hours of negotiations the previous day. There seemed to be so little optimism about a deal that some suggested the union might dissolve itself in order to bring an antitrust suit against the league. While many issues separated the two sides, the labor dispute centered the very economics of the sport—in a league in which revenues grew beyond $10 million in 2019, the owners were willing to reallocate the money distributed to the players, but not accede to the players’ demands to increase their allotment. Although the players have seemingly had public support on their side, the owners—better able to weather the economic sacrifices of a delayed season—presumably had the upper hand in bargaining. According to an Associated Press study, players would lose $20.5 million in salary for each day of the season that was to be cancelled. On March 7, reports suggested that MLB planned to cancel another week of games if a deal wasn’t reached the following day, which MLB held out as a deadline to salvage a full 162-game season with full pay and service time accrual for players. The league softened that deadline after nearly 17 hours of negotiations on March 8 prompted the union to ask for time to convene with player leaders the next day before responding to MLB’s proposal. When a deal failed to materialize on March 9, MLB cancelled a second week of the regular season.
The two sides finally reached an agreement in the afternoon of March 10, meaning spring training camps could open immediately, free agent signings can begin March 17, and opening day will take place April 7. The increase in the competitive balance tax—a salary threshold over which team spending is progressively taxed—from $230 million to $244 million helped the deal coalesce. Other key terms of the new agreement include an increase in the minimum salary for players with less than three years of service time, enlargement of the pre-arbitration bonus pool, expansion to a 12-team playoff format, and the introduction of advertising on player uniforms. After union leaders voted in favor of the agreement by a 26-12 tally, all 30 team owners unanimously ratified the deal, officially ending the lockout and making effective the new CBA.
Brian Flores urged NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell last week to reject a request made by the Miami Dolphins for the league to compel arbitration of his racial discrimination claims. In a letter addressed to the Commissioner, Flores and his lawyers argued that his claims, which “involve important issues of systemic race discrimination,” should “play out in a transparent and public legal process,” rather than in “secret arbitration proceedings that lack transparency.” The Dolphins, according to the letter, made the arbitration request last month. In attempting to persuade Commissioner Goodell, Flores’ letter makes reference to the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act, recently signed into law, which amends the Federal Arbitration Act to make pre-dispute arbitration agreements for sexual assault and sexual harassment claims invalid and unenforceable.