Major League Baseball Players Association launches $1 million fund for stadium workers as owners’ lockout drags on

MLB players announce a new fund to help stadium workers impacted by the lockout. (Lynne Sladky/AP)

The players are stepping up and giving back to those unfairly affected by MLB’s lockout.

The Major League Baseball Players Association is launching a $1 million fund to “support stadium workers and others who face financial hardship” affected by the owners’ lockout and cancellation of regular-season games, the MLBPA announced on Friday.

In a statement, the MLBPA said thousands of skilled workers — ranging from concession crews, electricians, ushers, security, transportation and janitors to television and radio broadcasting crews and groundskeepers — stage more than 2,500 MLB games each year.

The fund will be administered by the MLBPA and The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, a large federation of unions that represents more than 12 million active and retired workers.

“There are a lot of people who make our game great,” MLBPA executive board members Max Scherzer and Andrew Miller said on Friday in a joint statement. “Many aren’t seen or heard, but they are vital to the entertainment experience of our games. Unfortunately, they will also be among those affected by the owner-imposed lockout and the cancellation of games. Through this fund, we want to let them know that they have our support.”

The owners’ lockout, implemented by commissioner Rob Manfred on Dec. 2, is nearing its 100th day as the players union and MLB negotiate toward a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. On March 1, after both parties did not meet MLB’s artificial deadline to reach a deal, Manfred announced the cancellation of the first week of regular season games, postponing Opening Day indefinitely.

In a statement, the MLBPA said the league spent “months avoiding meaningful bargaining over issues of importance to players, including improving competition, providing fair compensation for younger players and upholding the integrity of MLB’s market-based economic system.”

Negotiations between the two sides have been ongoing for a year. After the players union made a proposal in late November, MLB waited 43 days to propose a counteroffer. The league finally ramped up labor talks last week, to no avail. In the four days since Manfred canceled the first two series of the regular season, the MLBPA has accused MLB of trying to break up its union and failing to bargain in good faith. Lead negotiators from each side met in an informal meeting on Thursday for the first time since Manfred announced the cancelation of games.

MLBPA executive Tony Clark said in a statement: “The fund is intended to support workers who are most affected by the MLB-imposed lockout but whose livelihoods have been disregarded by the owners in their efforts to pressure Players into accepting an unfair deal.”

UNITE HERE, the union that represents thousands of ballpark stadium workers across the United States, announced on Tuesday that it “stands in solidarity with the baseball players that are currently locked out unfairly by the team owners.”

D. Taylor, UNITE HERE president, continued in a statement: “It’s clear that the players are being squeezed out by greedy owners who could end this all if they were to just agree to the players’ reasonable demands.

“It’s not just the fans who will be the most impacted by the owners’ decisions — it’s the tens of thousands of ballpark workers and members of the communities these teams play in that would feel the most harm by the owners’ greed. It’s the low-wage and tipped hospitality workers who already have seen a fair amount of disruption to their livelihoods in recent seasons that will bear the brunt of all of this. It’s the taxpayers that funded many of these owners’ prized stadiums that will see loss of income.”

During 2020′s delay to the MLB season, the league committed $1 million from each team — totaling $30 million — to assist ballpark employees. Multiple reports indicate MLB will soon commit some amount of money to support stadium workers during the lockout.

“Whether you’re a worker on the baseball field, or a worker behind the scenes, we all deserve respect and dignity on the job,” AFL-CIO president Liz Schuler said in a statement. “The labor movement will do everything in our power to support these and all workers.”

The MLBPA said it will continue working with the AFL-CIO in the weeks ahead to determine the hardest-hit communities and align resource distribution to those who need it most.