Statement from the Major League Baseball Players Association
JUPITER, March 1 – Rob Manfred and MLB’s owners have cancelled the start of the season. Players and fans around the world who love baseball are disgusted, but sadly not surprised.
From the beginning of these negotiations, Players’ objectives have been consistent—to promote competition, provide fair compensation for young Players, and to uphold the integrity of our market system. Against the backdrop of growing revenues and record profits, we are seeking nothing more than a fair agreement.
What Rob Manfred characterized as a “defensive lockout” is, in fact, the culmination of a decades-long attempt by owners to break our Player fraternity. As in the past, this effort will fail. We are united and committed to negotiating a fair deal that will improve the sport for Players, fans and everyone who loves our game.
The 1981 baseball strike was the fifth work stoppage in Major League Baseball history. The strike began on June 12 and forced the cancellation of 713 games (or 38 percent of the Major League schedule) in the middle of the regular season.
An estimated $146 million was lost in player salaries, ticket sales, broadcast revenues, and concession revenues. The players lost $4 million a week in salaries while the owners suffered a total loss of $72 million.
The Strike Deadline
The Executive Board of the Players’ Association voted unanimously to strike on May 29 due to the unresolved issue of free agent compensation. The deadline was extended briefly, however, after the Players’ Association’s unfair labor complaint was heard by the National Labor Relations Board.
Reasons for the Strike
The strike was called in response to the owners desperately wanting to win back the prerogatives over the players. The owners had already lost at the bargaining table and in the courts on the issue of the free agency draft. At issue during the seven weeklong negotiations was the owner’s demanding compensation for losing a free agent player to another team. The compensation in question was a player who was selected from the signing team’s roster (not including 12 “protected” players). The players maintained that any form of compensation would undermine the value of free agency.
Although the strike was called by the players, many sportswriters and even fans placed most of the blame on the owners. Sports Illustrated reflected this particular opinion loud and clear with the cover headline that read “Strike! The Walkout the Owners Provoked.” One of the reasons the owners doled out such hefty contracts from 1978-1981 (43 players each negotiated contracts worth over $1 million during this period) was because they were afraid of losing disgruntled stars in the free agency reentry draft. So, the owners paid their players the so-called new going rate in order to keep them from going elsewhere.
The Strike Ends
On July 31, 1981, a compromise was reached. In the settlement, teams that lost a “premium” free agent could be compensated by drawing from a pool of players left unprotected from all of the clubs rather than just the signing club. The settlement gave the owners a limited victory on the compensation issue.
Reportedly, the negotiations were so bitter that when a settlement was finally reached, Major League Baseball Players Association representative Marvin Miller and the owners’ negotiator, Ray Grebey, refused to pose with each other for the traditional “peace ceremony” photograph.