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Bet this is just what you wanted to hear on the day that the NFL labor contract is set to expire. Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Michael Weiner said this morning that the union held it's first formal bargaining session with the ownership bargaining team in Tampa.

MLB and union open talks

The meeting was attended by many of the player reps, including Orioles pitcher Jeremy Guthrie. Weiner, who was at the Ed Smith Complex to brief the Orioles on union business as part of the union's annual tour of the spring training camps, described the bargaining session as "introductory,'' but said it was a productive start.

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Most of the labor news is going to come out of the NFL for the next few months, but Major League Baseball's Basic Agreement is set to expire after this season, so it's about time for the players and owners to get to work. Weiner wouldn't characterize the position of the two sides, but he did say that the past history of the baseball labor relationship is instructive -- both for the coming baseball talks and the NFL dispute.

"Our history has helped us,'' he said. "We've had our fights, and I think the owners respect the players much more now than in the 1980s and early 1990s."

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The baseball owners and players have managed to avoid another cataclysmic labor fight like the one that shut down the sport in 1994 and stretched into the 1995 season. Since then, baseball revenues have risen dramatically, which should prevent either side from walking the sport off another cliff.

Not so with the NFL, which appears to be headed for a lockout when the current NFL CBA expires tonight. The NFLPA could move to decertify today to head that off.

Weiner said he does see some similarities between the NFL labor battle this year and the 1994 labor disaster in baseball.

"There are some similarities to '94, though there already is a salary cap in football," Weiner said. "In '94, baseball owners came in seeking massive concessions. It's hard to make a deal when one side comes in seeking massive concessions like that."

Associated Press file photo

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