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Friday, February 20, 2004

3rd Circuit Rules on Umpire Labor Dispute: In what is probably the end of one of the worst labor strategic moves of all time, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld an arbitrator's decision that ordered the reinstatement of nine umpires and denied the reinstatement claims of 10 others. The decision upholds the same rulings made by a federal district court judge.

The case stems from actions taken by Major League Umpires Association [MLUA] during the 1999 season. In an attempt to force the leagues to negotiate with the umpires, the umpire's union orchestrated the resignation of 57 of 68 major league umpires. But the move allowed the leagues to get rid of the least-popular and poorest-performing umpires, who were replaced almost immediately. The quick replacements caused the other umpires to rescind their resignations and return to work. The umpire's union filed a grievance, challenging baseball's hiring of replacements as against the collective bargaining agreement.

The arbitrator held that management was entitled to hire permanent replacements due to the concerted but "unprotected" activity of the MLUA. The federal district judge agreed, saying the leagues "could have been stopped short without most of [their] umpires at the most crucial point of the year, at the end of the regular season and during the post-season playoffs."

The 3rd Circuit ruled that "[a]rbitration awards enjoy a strong presumption of correctness that may be overcome only in certain limited circumstances." Only if the arbitrator demonstrated a "manifest disregard" for the collective bargaining agreement should his decision be overturned.

The cite for the case is 2004 WL 293121.


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