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MLBPA releases statement supporting New Era workers

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Earlier this week, Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle and his wife Eireann Dolan brought attention to a labor issue that likely would have flown under the radar. New Era, the official manufacturer of MLB caps, planned to close their factory in Derby New York, eliminating 219 union jobs. Those jobs would be moved to a manufacturing facility in Miami and the jobs would become non-union and contracted.

Doolittle posted a series of tweets informing fans about the ramifications:

Baseball players, of course, are also members of a union, so it is important that workers stand together on these issues. Separately, no one worker has the power to stop union-busting, but together, they have the power to hold those in power accountable. It is important that fellow union members don’t cross picket lines, as some players did last October when hotel workers were on strike in Boston.

The MLBPA issued a statement on Thursday expressing solidarity with the New Era factory workers, reading:

The Major League Baseball Players Association stands in solidarity with the more than 200 women and men at the New Era plant in Derby, NY, who have made the official on-field caps our players have worn with pride for decades but who will now lose their jobs as the company shutters the facility and turns the work over to a non-union manufacturer.

The MLBPA urges New Era to reconsider its decision, which will cause economic harm not just to the dedicated workers who manufacture the caps and to their families, but also to the town of Derby, which has supported the company for nearly 60 years.

It has always been a source of great pride for players to wear the highest-quality, union-made caps produced by the New Era workers in Derby.

Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) also wrote a letter to commissioner Rob Manfred. He wrote, “I call on you to urge New Era to reconsider its decision, and to continue supplying America’s pastime with high-quality, union-made products that reflect the skill and dedication that Major League Baseball’s (MLB) players bring to the game.”

Kudos to Doolittle and Dolan for bringing attention to this issue and looking out for workers’ rights. Kudos to the MLBPA — and Senator Brown — for publicly expressing solidarity.

Blue Jays release John Axford

John Axford
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The Blue Jays have released right-handed reliever John Axford from his minor league contract, per an announcement on Saturday. Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi speculates that the move could provide an avenue for the club to rework Axford’s contract, but the Blue Jays have yet to confirm or deny the report.

Axford, 35, was dealt a blow on Thursday after getting diagnosed with a stress reaction in the olecranon bone of his right elbow. Elbow soreness dogged the right-hander through much of his time in camp, and although he was scheduled for a follow-up examination later this spring, a definite return date had not been established.

Prior to the diagnosis, Axford was tabbed for a setup role with the team in 2019. He pitched to mixed results in 2018 (thanks in part to a late-season fracture of his right fibula) with a 5.27 ERA, 4.9 BB/9, and 9.8 SO/9 through 54 2/3 innings with the Blue Jays and Dodgers. Now, however, it’s not certain that he’ll return to the mound this season in any capacity.

Axford isn’t the only reliever the Blue Jays have lost to injury lately, either, as right-handers Ryan Tepera and Bud Norris have been sidelined with right elbow inflammation and forearm fatigue, respectively. Per Davidi, the Blue Jays offered Norris a $100,000 retention bonus to prevent him from opting out of the minor league contract he signed in February.