A year ago it was reported that Major League Baseball owners were considering allowing teams to eliminate pensions for non-uniformed employees. When that leaked, Rob Manfred — who is poised to be the next Commissioner — said this:
There has been no discussion of eliminating #MLB employee pension pla ns according to VP Rob Manfred
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) March 20, 2013
Either Manfred was out of the loop last year or else he was lying, because Major League Baseball’s owners did just that last month. From Adam Rubin of ESPN:
Major League Baseball owners, despite earning more than $8 billion in revenue in 2013, voted in January to allow individual teams to slash or eliminate pension-plan offerings to their non-uniformed personnel.
The vote, tabled a year earlier when the intention became public, quietly took place Jan. 16 at the quarterly owners meetings in Paradise Valley, Ariz., the same gathering at which instant-replay expansion unanimously was approved.
Manfred is quoted extensively in that story talking about how it’s a perfectly harmless and defensible move. About how employees like not having pensions and would much prefer to fund their retirement with their own money rather than have it as a benefit conferred by their employer.
And the evidence that this is so manifestly good for employees and how competitively beneficial for baseball can be seen in the manner in which Major League Baseball took such public ownership of the vote and the change. The same league that will send out press releases when they change the type of toner cartridges they use somehow didn’t want this getting out, I guess.
I suppose many of you will note that most industries have 401K-style retirements now instead of pensions. Mine does. Yours probably does. Indeed, outside of some government employees, it’s hard to find a straight pension system anywhere these days. To that I say: Baseball is not most industries.
Most industries cut pension plans in the face of extreme competitive pressure in environments in which labor costs subject to the cuts represented huge costs to their bottom lines. In contrast, Baseball is utterly booming, and these cuts are targeted at an astonishingly small number of not-very-well-paid non-uniformed employees who work long hours and do amazing things to let these millionaires and billionaires make the fortunes they make.
Major League Baseball is totally within its rights to make this change. And, in doing so, they are conforming to trends in other industries. But just because they can and desire to do so doesn’t mean it’s right to do so. Indeed, to target the secretaries, scouts, ticket sellers and promotional staff for cost-cutting is simply shameful.