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Life’s a Beach: The labor behind the MLB lockout

At 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 2, the five-year collective bargaining agreement, or CBA, between Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association, or MLBPA, expired. Commissioner Rob Manfred announced a mere two minutes later that the league would be entering a lockout effective immediately. There was to be no communication between players and team officials, active trades or signings to major league teams — all coming after the biggest day of trades this offseason. 

A CBA is a document that is agreed upon by the governing body and labor union of a sport. It negotiates terms of employment including drafts, free agency and salaries. CBAs can also include information on luxury taxes, roster sizes and drug testing. In the MLB’s case, all 30 major league teams and the MLBPA must agree to the terms of the contract to keep ethical business practices. 

The last CBA governed from 2016 through 2021. However, now that the document is expired, there’s a lot to unpack. 

It’s not uncommon for a work stoppage to occur when a CBA is void, but it has been 26 years since the MLB last had a work stoppage due to a labor dispute. A lockout has never been truly defined under federal labor statutes, but there are widely accepted uses of the term.

Iron Molders’ Union No. 125 of Milwaukee, Wisconsin v. Allis-Chalmers Co. defines a lockout as the “cessation of the furnishing of work to employees in an effort to get for the employer more desirable terms.”

So, does the MLB lockout truly benefit the players?

There’s no explicit statutory protection under labor law for a lockout, meaning that the players are not protected during this time. However, there are clauses put in place to keep them afloat. Any player who was on a 40-man roster this past summer will continue to receive their medical benefits and no player will miss a deferred salary paycheck. Also, players can take part in independent leagues during this time, like the Mexican Pacific League

Those benefits sound great, but there is a downside.

All club facilities are locked, including gyms and offices. Players in physical therapy, such as Yankees pitcher Jameson Tallion, are unable to access their doctors. Tallion underwent ankle surgery in October to repair a partially torn tendon.


Tallion is one of the many players who are arbitration eligible this offseason. He doesn’t have a contract for next year and the lockout froze any moves at him securing one.

All of this seems like bad business practice, and Manfred recognizes that. But, if the game is a business, why would the front offices not want to keep their revenue sources going?

It seems that the MLB does not care at this point. That is why there is a name, image and likeness component to the lockout. The MLB scrubbed all rosters of player images and are being selective with their content for the duration of the labor stoppage. Multiple players, Tallion included, changed their avatars on Twitter to mimic their roster images. 

The players are taking everything in stride. Lockouts are an intimidation practice at their core and they know that. There is no visible fear in the players’ eyes, but there is some in the MLB’s. If the lockout continues into the season, it is likely that Minor League Baseball will take the forefront because the minor league players not on the 40-man are unaffected by the lockout. 

At the end of the day, it's the players who benefit from the lockout even if a CBA is not signed. The pros outweigh the cons. They can play for other leagues, keep their individual social media presence and continue to get their deferred paychecks. Most players choose to workout with individual trainers during the offseason, so the master lock on the building doesn’t matter anyway. 

The biggest takeaway from the 2021 MLB lockout is that players should be heard. They are the ones putting their bodies on the line for the front office.

Ashley Beach is a sophomore studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Ashley know by emailing her at ab026319@ohio.edu

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