Labor peace? Union says it's so, but Selig says it ain't yet

THE BALTIMORE SUN

NEW YORK -- Major League Baseball Players Association director Donald Fehr and management negotiator Randy Levine announced last night that a deal has been struck to end baseball's protracted labor dispute, but interim baseball commissioner Bud Selig so far has refused to acknowledge or endorse it.

Fehr and Levine hammered out the final compromises on Thursday, but the owners must ratify it by a 75 percent vote. That likely will happen in the next few days, but Selig isn't willing to say the four-year labor dispute is over until it's over.

"The deal has been reached," Fehr said. "I mean, we have been waiting since Aug. 12 for Randy to receive permission from Bud to finish. He got that permission on Wednesday night and we finished it Thursday in Atlanta, but Bud has not responded to my efforts to reach him.

"He should walk in here tonight and acknowledge the deal, announce that he endorses it and call an owners meeting to approve it. The players ratified it a long time ago."

Selig would do no such thing. He told reporters last night that the deal was not final and even hinted that it might not be approved by a vote of the full ownership, though he is thought to have the 21 votes necessary for ratification.

"We're still at the stage of heavy negotiations and nothing more," Selig said. "From my perspective, I can only tell you how I see it."

The tentative deal calls for a steep luxury tax on baseball's highest payrolls, graduating increases in the minimum major-league salary, the gradual introduction of three-man arbitration panels and a variety of lesser compromises.

It is far from the salary cap that the owners set out to establish when they reopened collective bargaining in December 1992, but it also is a philosophical leap for the union, which had vowed to resist any attempt to put an artificial drag on salaries.

Fehr's pointed public pronouncements were clearly an attempt to put pressure on the owners to ratify the deal quickly. Selig would not say anything concrete, but he indicated that he would bring the full ownership together for a meeting very soon, which probably means a meeting in Chicago sometime this week.

Pub Date: 10/27/96

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