Spring training threatened, MLB calls for federal mediator

Major League Baseball has asked a federal mediator to intervene in stalled union negotiations that will likely delay the start of spring training.

On the 64th day of a lockout, MLB Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem on Thursday asked the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service to enter the dispute.


The players’ association must give its consent for the conciliation service to enter into talks. The union declined to comment and its lawyers were to consult with the players.

There was little movement in the last trading session on Tuesday, leaving almost no hope that spring training sessions would start as planned on February 16. Baseball’s ninth work stoppage, the first since 1995, will soon threaten Opening Day on March 31.

The players made a new proposal with small changes on Tuesday in the first negotiating session in a week, and management hasn’t responded.

The Federal Mediation Service entered talks in 1981, and mediator Kenneth Moffett helped broker a deal that ended a midseason strike after 50 days, a stoppage that resulted in 713 canceled games.

“It’s done in a fishbowl,” Moffett told The Associated Press in 1994. “Every statement, every press release — anything — is for public consumption. In most negotiations, you don’t hear a peek until there’s a settlement.”

Major League Baseball Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem, center, arrives for a meeting in New York, Monday, Jan. 24, 2022, for the first in-person negotiation session since the MLB lockdown began. At far left is Patrick Houlihan, senior vice president & Assistant General Counsel, Labor Relations at Major League Baseball, and second from left is Colorado Rockies owner Dick Montfort.
(AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

Moffett succeeded Marvin Miller as executive director of the players’ association in 1983 but was fired after 10½ months. Moffett died last December at the age of 90.

After another strike began on August 12, 1994, and led to the first cancellation of the World Series in 90 years, President Bill Clinton chose former Secretary of Labor WJ Usery to mediate the dispute.

While Usery persuaded the parties to resume talks, neither party found their presence productive in what has become a highly technical employment contract whose practices and effects are difficult for outsiders to understand.

After Usery brought both sides to the White House and made suggestions for a settlement, the hardline positions on both sides left Clinton “enraged,” White House spokesman Mike McCurry said.

The 1994-95 strike ended April 2, two days after the National Labor Relations Board obtained an injunction from U.S. District Judge Sonia Sotomayor to reinstate the terms and conditions of the expired contract. A new deal was not reached until March 1997, long after Usery left the talks.


Gregory Goldstein was named interim director of the FMCS on December 22 by President Joe Biden. Javier Ramirez, the FMCS executive director of the agency’s initiatives division, was nominated by Biden as director on June 9 but was not confirmed by the Senate.

FMCS participated in talks during the 2011 NFL lockout and 2011 NBA lockout, 2012-13 NHL lockout, 2015 Major League Soccer negotiations with its players and MLS negotiations in 2014 with on-field officials.

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