Remembering the Labor Leader Marvin Miller, Founder of the MLB Players Association

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An epic part of labor history passes on.  Marvin Miller, the founder of the Major League Baseball Players Association passed away at the age of 95.  The MLBPA made the announcement in a statement this morning.

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“It is with profound sorrow that we announce the passing of Marvin Miller,” said Michael Weiner, current MLBPA executive director. “All players — past, present and future — owe a debt of gratitude to Marvin, and his influence transcends baseball. Marvin, without question, is largely responsible for ushering in the modern era of sports, which has resulted in tremendous benefits to players, owners and fans of all sports.

“Miller served as Executive Director from 1966-82. During his tenure and through the collective bargaining process, Miller led players to unprecedented levels of improved pension and health benefits and compensation, while also providing players a greater voice in the rules and regulations of the game. It is often said that Miller helped form and create one of the strongest unions in American labor history.”

Miller began his career as labor economist for the US Government. He later worked  for the International Association of Machinists, the United Automobile Workers, and the United Steelworkers.

“With a combination of charisma and clarity of vision, Miller convinced the initially skeptical players of the strength they could wield through solidarity and collective bargaining.”
From the MLBPA Miller Bio Page

Hank Aaron once said Miller was “as important to the history of baseball as Jackie Robinson.”

Miller created Free Agency. This allowed players to choose their own path and which teams they would play for. This also allowed the players to walk away from a team who was not willing to pay the wages the player desired or deserved.  Prior to the Free Agency rules, players were covered by a ‘reserve clause’ which would basically lock them into a team and a pay rate for as long as a player would play.  “Miller likened the reserve clause, which tied a player to the team holding his contract, as little more than 20th century slavery.”

Miller also helped to create a process to handle players grievances through arbitration. This gave the players a chance to have their grievances heard by someone outside the owners boxes.

Hank Aaron once said Miller was “as important to the history of baseball as Jackie Robinson,” according to Baseball-Reference.com.

“In all, Miller helped players collectively negotiate enormous advances in salaries, benefits and working conditions over five collective bargaining agreements with the owners during his tenure. To reach those agreements, Miller guided the players through strikes in 1972, 1980 and 1981 as well as lockouts in 1973 and 1976.”
From the MLBPA Miller Bio Page

The NY Times said

By the time Mr. Miller retired at the end of 1982, he had secured his place on baseball’s Mount Rushmore by forging one of the strongest unions in America, creating a model for those in basketball, football and hockey.

Marvin Miller understood the financial issues of the team owners and the personal issues of the players.  He used his knowledge of both to make the game, the players, the owners, and the union flourish.

“I never before saw such a win-win situation my life, where everybody involved in Major League Baseball, both sides of the equation, still continue to set records in terms of revenue and profits and salaries and benefits,” Miller said. “You would think that it was impossible to do that. But it is possible, and it is an amazing story how under those circumstances, there can be both management and labor really winning.”  (ESPN)

Through strength, determination, solidarity, and collective bargaining, players in every professional sport today and for years to come will benefit from the work that Marvin Miller did as the Executive Director of the Major League Baseball Players Association.

NHLN Note: ESPN.Com posted an amazing video of the life of Marvin Miller, I encourage everyone to watch it.