The owner-imposed lockout in Major League Baseball is now more than two months old, and there has been little progress toward a deal for a new collective bargaining agreement. The players union and owners have met four times in recent weeks, but remain far apart on economic issues. With the originally scheduled date for pitchers and catchers to report to spring training just 10 days away, MLB reportedly took a new approach on Thursday.
MLB requested the assistance of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service to aid in negotiations, per ESPN's Jeff Passan. The MLB Players Association would have had to agree to using the FMCS to move forward with a mediator, however, and they officially declined that option on Friday while issuing the following statement:
Statement from the Major League Baseball Players Association: pic.twitter.com/KBssy2e66U— MLBPA Communications (@MLBPA_News) February 4, 2022
MLB has since responded by issuing the following statement to The Athletic's Evan Drellich:
Statement from a Major League Baseball spokesperson: pic.twitter.com/RKlKVPT32W— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) February 4, 2022
The minute the owners decided to lock the players out, commissioner Rob Manfred issued a statement saying the lockout was intended as a measure to jumpstart negotiations. It was then 42 days before the owners made an offer to the players. And in the weeks since they finally made an offer and then responded to counter offers from the players, they've relented on very little, while the players dropped their pursuit of earlier free agency -- one of the union's biggest requests. The owners haven't really offered anything significant in the way of concessions to the players on some pretty reasonable asks. (Here's more from meetings between the two sides this week.)
Oh, and then there's this:
Sources: MLB has told the MLBPA it will not make a counter offer after MLB two days ago saying it would.— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) February 3, 2022
Both the owner side and the MLBPA filed letters of intent with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) back in September to seek labor changes, per the Associated Press. The MLBPA did not comment to MLB Network's Jon Heyman about accepting or rejecting the offer of mediation on Thursday, however.
From the official FMCS website, here is the purpose of this independent government agency:
The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, created in 1947, is an independent agency whose mission is to preserve and promote labor-management peace and cooperation. Headquartered in Washington, DC, with two Regions comprising of eight District Offices and more than 60 Field and Home Offices, the agency provides mediation and conflict resolution services to industry, government agencies and communities.
This isn't a move without precedent, either. Back in 1980, the FMCS helped the players and owners reach an agreement to hold off on a work stoppage. In the 1981 season, however, a strike interrupted the season. Still, the FMCS was used again to help put an end to the strike.
The FMCS was used during the 1994-95 strike, though not much success was found this time until the National Labor Relations Board got involved and there was an injunction issued by a federal judge (current Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor, which is a nice piece of trivia) that actually got things moving.
Regarding the mediation process with that work stoppage, however, then-MLBPA boss Donald Fehr said the following (via Drellich): "It was a joke. It had no value. And there were all kind of agendas at work in the mediation that had nothing to do with the agendas of the parties trying to resolve the dispute."
Opening Day of the 2022 season is set for March 31. There's still wiggle room in there to keep that date in place, but the proverbial clock is certainly ticking. At the bare minimum, a good portion of spring training is in peril.