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Union Expert: Baseball Settlement or Lockout?

Monday, November 29, 2021

pitcher holding baseballs

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — The Basic Agreement between Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association is set to expire at 11:59 P.M. Eastern time on Wednesday (December 1). Baseball fans are wondering if there will be a settlement or a lockout.

James B. Dworkin, a professor in the Krannert School of Management at Purdue University, is an expert on professional sports unions and collective bargaining. He has served as an arbitrator and a mediator in a variety of labor-management disputes. He is also the author of the book Owners Versus Players: Baseball and Collective Bargaining.

“Deadlines like the contract expiration date above can be useful in pressuring the parties to reach an agreement. However, in this case with no games scheduled for several months, the deadline may not be that important to either party,” Dworkin says.

What will happen? Dworkin says that the parties have been engaged in negotiations lately over a variety of subjects such as minimum salary, eligibility for salary arbitration, number of days to constitute a year of major league service time, years of service time to become eligible for free agency, and many more. The Basic Agreement contains 373 pages, so there are many issues to discuss.

Dworkin says, “Many people think that if an agreement is not reached by the deadline, the owners will institute a lockout of the players. I think a lockout is very possible but not necessarily a fait accompli. Recently we have seen some free agent signings and so the owners could decide to just continue negotiations with the players under an expired contract without imposing a lockout.

“What I am absolutely certain about is that both parties will work very hard to avoid a strike or lockout that would cause the cancelation of games. There have been five strikes and three lockouts in MLB since the 1972 season. The most recent and longest dispute occurred in 1994 where there was a player strike that canceled 938 games and all of the post-season, including the World Series.

“Negotiations typically involve compromises by both parties and that is exactly what I expect will happen. Both parties would rather play ball than face a lockout or a strike. I think that the labor peace that MLB has enjoyed since the 1994 season will continue unabated and we will see baseball in 2022.”

Source: James B. Dworkin,