Negotiation and Dispute Resolution MLB Baseball Strike of 1994-1995 Term Paper

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Negotiations

Labor disputes are nothing new; employees, in the form of a union, use their collective influence as the workforce to influence managers and organizations to offer them better terms. In extreme situations where negotiation between the two sides has not yielded a successful outcome, the employees may go on strike until management comes up with a more amenable offer. Striking is detrimental to both sides in that the employees are not being paid, the management is not getting any work done, and both sides are losing financially.

When the organization in question is Major League Baseball, and a strike can end with America's pastime being stopped for months, the damage is not only financial but psychological-after repeated strikes and failed labor negotiations among players and owners, Major League Baseball has lost significant numbers of fans who grew up adoring the game. In real terms, the loss of these fans is a financial hardship for an organization that is already spread thin monetarily; the psychic damage of losing fans is much more difficult to measure, while still a major determinant in the labor negotiations. The strike of 1994-1995 lasted almost a full year and resulted in the cancellation of the World Series.

It also ended with many fans deserting the game, disillusioned; one writer summed up the attitude of the fans toward the owners and players as "a plague on both their houses."

Finally, and most directly damaging, the losses associated with the 232-day strike were estimated to be in the range of $375 million, a staggering amount of money.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Term Paper on Negotiation and Dispute Resolution MLB Baseball Strike of 1994-1995 Assignment

How could the players and owners have avoided this strike? In the same manner that steel unions, farmers collectives, and other labor organizations handle disputes that arise between owners and employees: by negotiating more successfully. This paper will address the ways that negotiations between players and owners could have been made more successful in the dispute that led up to the 1994-1995 strike and subsequent damage to the game's reputation as well as the detriment to its finances. The methods which could have been utilized are primarily from Fisher and Ury's manual for negotiations, Getting to Yes. This guide outlines four steps in a successful negotiation: separate the parties involved, don't take stringent positions, invent options, and insist on objectivity. This paper will first explain a brief background of the dispute between players and owners in Major League Baseball and then examine each of these four options with regard to what the players and owners did, in light of what they could or ought to have done.

Work stoppages in baseball are nothing new; the first "revolt" in baseball occurred in 1890. While not a strike, as players who were not "revolting" established a rival league in which they could play, this labor stoppage stemmed from protests about contracts and what amounted to 19th-century free agency.

Ty Cobb's fight with a heckler first resulted in his suspension and then in a walkout by the players as a protest to the suspension; the year was 1912 and the era of player strikes had begun. Since then, either players or owners have stopped play almost a dozen times; the modern era has brought new sources of revenue to wrangle over, such as licensing fees for goods and television revenues. Player salaries and benefits are, of course, always a hot topic with regard to labor negotiations. It was concerns such as these-revenue sharing, player salaries, and similar disputes that resulted in the strike of 1994-95.

However, the strike of 1994-95, while not groundbreaking with regard to subject matter, was groundbreaking in terms of length as well as the fact that it resulted in the cancellation of the World Series; no other labor dispute had so disrupted Major League Baseball. The "negotiation" tactics used by both sides were highly criticized not just by the average fan, who perceived the harm being done to the game, but by sports and labor experts almost unanimously. Better negotiating tactics, these experts said, could have significantly improved the strike terms and prevented the lengthy and costly stoppage of work.

The first of Fisher and Ury's tactics in successful negotiating, separate the parties from one another, may seem redundant. If there are at least two parties to take place in the argument, aren't they already separate? The more nuanced understanding of this qualification is that the parties must be separate in identity and goals; it is an example of when too much information may be harmful to a discussion. The owners knew exactly how much money the players made; they paid it. The players knew close to exactly how much money was generated by their play; they provided the services necessary to this income. Both sides knew the other's weaknesses and strengths intimately going into negotiations, and as such, were less likely to seek a middle ground, already knowing what the other party's assets and deficits were. In addition to this knowledge, emotions cloud a picture more easily when the actors are in close contact often. The situation was similar to parents arguing with a teenager about curfew-other factors such as one party's irritation about another dispute influences the "negotiation" at hand. These emotional factors had a significant impact on the Major League Baseball negotiations; one author described the mental state of the players and owners as akin to a winner-takes-all proposition: "But at the same time each side is determined not only to come out of this the winner but also to leave its adversary humiliated."

This gladiator-like mentality only serves as a detriment to successful negotiation; in a more beneficial (and most likely less lengthy) negotiation, both of the parties would have set aside their negative emotions and animosity toward the other in favor of reaching a settlement and a return to work as quickly as possible. By not doing so, both the players and owners of Major League Baseball immediately handicapped themselves-before negotiations even began- with regard to negotiating a satisfying compromise, and with regard to reaching a settlement at all. Another negotiations scholar, Leigh Thompson, notes that "negotiation is not a contest of wills or a match of strength, but rather, involves logic and reasoning." The emphasis on rationality and reason that Thompson asserts is a requisite of successful negotiation was not present in the 1994-95 baseball strike; instead, owners and players allowed their emotional differences and feelings of being shorted govern their interactions, reducing the effectiveness of the negotiations.

Fisher and Ury's second criterion is a denial of taking stringent positions; they note that they more entrenched in one position a party becomes, the less likely it is that a compromise may be reached with another party, even if the compromise would be the most mutually beneficial result. An example of this is a criminal refusing to take a plea bargain even though the evidence against him is airtight. Both the prosecution and the accused could benefit from a negotiated sentence; the prosecution in terms of effort and time utilized in a trial, and the accused by virtue of not receiving what is a certain lengthier sentence.

While the Major League Baseball negotiations did not involve criminal sentencing, they could have benefitted from each side being less committed to a certain position. A specific example of entrenched positions harming the baseball negotiations is the discussion (or rather, lack of discussion) regarding a player salary cap. The players refused to consider a cap, and the owners essentially required it as a part of the new collective bargaining agreement; each side's refusal to move far from these positions hampered the negotiations. "The strategy of both sides is not so much to negotiate -- [negotiator Richard] Ravitch conceded last week that "serious negotiations" have yet to take place -- as it is simply to outlast the enemy." Successful negotiation, however, is not combative and is focused on cooperating with the other party-in direct opposition to the tactics employed by both owners and players in the 1994-95 baseball negotiations.

This entrenchment was far more detrimental to both sides than it was beneficial to either one; the delay caused in demanding a certain position harmed the game of baseball both psychically and financially more than the perceived damage that a bit of compromise on either or both sides would have done. The parties saw any relaxation on their demands as "losing," however, the owners lost significant revenue from games not played during the strike. The players lost pay, and both sides suffered from the public relations damage that the strike did to the game of baseball as a whole; decreased revenues and a smaller fan base were what greeted both sides upon their return.

Yet another area that both parties in the baseball negotiations failed in is the need to invent options; if a midpoint does not seem to exist with regard to a certain situation, negotiators need to brainstorm and propose new alternatives to the positions held. Sportswriters, labor experts, and average fans alike all suggested viable proposals… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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