MLB’s Labor Woes

Trouble's brewing as the Winter Meetings kick-off in Vegas. Plus, how the NFL might be using testing as a tool for intimidation.

Welcome to “The Labor Beat”, a weekly breakdown of the biggest stories from the world of collective bargaining and labor disputes. This week, a look at Eric Reid’s disproportionate drug testing saga, and the rising tension at the Winter Meetings in Vegas.  


With Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid’s collusion grievances still unresolved and awaiting trial, retaliation against them at the hands of owners and league is not unthinkable.

The NFL Players Association said last week they were “looking into” Reid’s allegations against the league’s random drug testing policy.

Reid said he had been randomly drug-tested five times in eight games after taking an initial test in late September when he signed with Carolina.

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“I know what I’m dealing with,” Reid said. “I have a collusion case against the NFL. This is something that doesn’t surprise me from them. It’s supposed to be random. It’s obviously not. I’m not surprised about it. Even though it seems crazy on the outside looking in, and it is, I’m not surprised.”

I’ve been looking at math statistics trying to talk to people. I think it’s like a 1 percent chance that somebody gets tested this much. Statistically, big problem.”


The MLB’s winter meetings are starting today, and tempers are rising.

Union chief Tony Clark and new collective bargaining director Bruce Myer said their members are very concerned about the quick changes being made that affect how games are played—increased use of relief pitchers for one, and are ready to discuss it with league management over the offseason.

Altering the amateur draft to include an NBA-style lottery for the top picks, the 10-day disabled list and the 10-day minimum for the recall of players optioned to the minors are among the issues union is prepared to address as part of a wider discussion.

And the union continues to hold its agreement is required for any changes in anti-gambling rules after the Supreme Court’s decision legalized widespread sports betting. MGM Resorts International became MLB’s official gambling partner last week.

“We have seen some things that are eerily similar to last offseason,” Clark said. “One of the concerns in general has to do with the level of competition or interest in competition across the teams in general. … When you have teams who are as we’ve seen already moving considerable amounts of their roster and/or other teams who are talking about doing so, it raises concerns about how that’s going to affect the market.”

In response, MLB Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem,  fired off a warning shot: “Last off season, the union filed a grievance against four clubs that it claimed were not trying to win. One of those clubs made the playoffs, another club won 90 games and a third club was in contention through the trade deadline. I don’t think the players’ association has any credibility on opining on how clubs will perform.”

Other issues raised by players:
  • Drop in offense. The big league batting average dropped to its lowest level since 1972 at .248, strikeouts topped hits for the first time.
  • Further discussions about limits to mound visits.
  • Drop in game attendance

That’s it for this Tuesday. Follow us on Instagram for the Friday edition.

Al Neal
Al Neal
Al Neal is an award-winning columnist at Grandstand Central writing on politics, labor relations, and the general rabble-rousing in professional sports. He spent a decade working in the trade union movement with various locals across the country and currently serves as Dir. of Education and Advocacy for the St. Louis Workers’ Education Society.



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