More going way-too-far from baseball writers who are not conversant with labor law. Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post saying that A-Rod is awful — the headline says he committed “his gravest sin” — in suing the MLBPA yesterday. In the article he says A-Rod “slanders a dead man” in mentioning Michael Weiner in his complaint, which is the most extreme version yet of the fallacy I discussed this morning.
Let’s inject some actual information into this, shall we? David Ziff, who is a lecturer at the University of Washington School of Law, alerts me to legal precedent which not only makes A-Rod’s suing of the MLBPA not a “grave sin,” but makes it absolutely essential if he is to advance his case.
A-Rod’s suit comes pursuant to Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act or the “LMRA.” Here is what the law has to say about suing your union in such cases:
When union members sue their employer for breach of contract under section 301 of the LMRA, they must also state a prerequisite claim of breach of their union’s duty of fair representation. See Vaca v. Sipes, 386 U.S. 171, 186-87 (1967); Thomas v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., 890 F.2d 909, 914-16 (7th Cir. 1989). This is because ordinarily, union members must first use the grievance procedures specified in the CBA rather than directly sue the employer; only when the union has breached its duty to fairly represent the union members in that grievance process may the union members bring a claim against their employer. See, e.g., DelCostello v. Int’l Bhd. of Teamsters, 462 U.S. 151, 163-64 (1983).
It’s not a choice by A-Rod, and certainly not a “sin.” His effort to sue MLB and overturn his arbitration award REQUIRES that he sue the union as well. If not, he has no claim at all.
Perhaps your response to this is “well, he shouldn’t be suing.” But if it is, at least admit that you’re angry at A-Rod for fully exercising his rights, not the manner in which he is doing so. Because to do it any other way would constitute legal malpractice.