A union that won’t go to bat for the retired players without MLB pensions

While the New York Mets are busy celebrating the 50th anniversary of their 1969 World Series championship, on Saturday, June 29, the New York Yankees will be taking on the Boston Red Sox in London.

Did you know every member of those two teams will get an additional $60,000 to play these regular series games in Merry Old England?
Let me ask you this: how much does your boss pay you to go on a business trip?
I don’t mean reimbursing you for any expenses it cost to go on the trip. It’s common for most employers to reimburse their employees for gas mileage or hotel accommodations or airfare or meals. Some even arrange for those things to be paid in advance, so you don’t have to incur any out of pocket expenses.
 I’m referring to actually paying an employee to go on a business trip.
Major League Baseball (MLB) does just that. In the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) MLB and the union representing the current players, the Major League Baseball Players’ Association (MLBPA), ratified in December 2016, provisions for how much money each player receives for playing games in Asia and England, in 2019 and 2020, were negotiated.
In a recent Associated Press article, it was revealed that baseball players will receive an extra $60,000 each for regular-season trips to Asia or England, as well as an additional $15,000 for trips to Mexico, Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic.
Players also reportedly receive an extra $5,000 for each international spring training series they go on. And players get $100,000 for postseason All-Star trips to Japan, $50,000 for trips to Asia and $25,000 for Mexico.
By and large, today’s players are millionaires already. The average MLB salary is $4.4 million.
Do the likes of D.J. LeMahieu, who signed a two-year, $24 million deal to play with the Yankees, and Aroldis Chapman, who signed a five-year, $86 million contract, really need an extra $60,000 each to cross the pond? I understand this was a benefit that the players negotiated for themselves. But in my opinion, it’s a pretty frivolous one, especially since this is a union that won’t go to bat for the 633 retired ballplayers without MLB pensions.
You read that right. As a result of a vesting change in 1980, men like former Mets George “The Stork” Theodore, Dave Schneck and Hank Webb don’t receive MLB pensions, which are worth up to $225,000 a year, according to the Internal Revenue Service.
The only thing they receive is an annual bone thrown to them of $625 for every 43 game days of service they accrued on an active MLB roster, up to $10,000. And that is before taxes are taken out.
Meanwhile, the MLBPA stuck out a tin cup nine years ago and panhandled for monies from the United States government.
When it was funded at only 48 percent, the MLBPA got United States Senator Bob Casey, of Pennsylvania, to sponsor what was tantamount to a taxpayer-subsidized $165 billion bailout of organized labor, including the MLBPA and the Teamsters. The Senator’s bill would have shifted the liabilities of the players union pension fund — widely regarded as being among the best-funded plans in the nation — to the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.
Listen, I’m a pro-union man. Unions advocate for all the hard-working men and women, and their families, who are paying the taxes in this country. But did Casey seriously expect us average Joes to support a bailout of the baseball players union?
To date, the MLBPA has been loath to divvy up anymore of the collective pie. Even though the current players’ pension and welfare fund is valued at $3.5 billion, MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark – a former Mets and Yankee player, by the way — has never commented about these non-vested retirees, many of whom are filing for bankruptcy at advanced ages, having banks foreclose on their homes and are so sickly and poor that they cannot afford adequate health care coverage.
So while they’re over in England, I hope Chapman, LeMahieu, Gary Sanchez and all the other representatives of the Bronx Bombers thank their lucky stars that they’re earning $60,000 to play the sport they love. ‘Cause some of the men who came before them aren’t so fortunate.
Douglas J. Gladstone is a freelance magazine writer and author of two books, including “A Bitter Cup of Coffee; How MLB & The Players Association Threw 874 Retirees a Curve.”
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