In September 2018, the Major League Baseball Players Association hired a new chief negotiator, attorney Bruce Meyer. Meyer notably used to work with the NHL Player’s Union under former MLBPA executive director Donald Fehr. He has largely flown under the radar since joining the MLBPA.
At the time of his hiring, the union was under some stress as the players began to reap what they had sown in negotiations over the current collective bargaining agreement. The players’ side gave up some big concessions and didn’t, in the grand scheme of things, get a whole lot in return. What they did gain was the stuff of luxury, such as more days off and scheduling changes to accommodate travel.
In the time since, the MLBPA has grown some backbone, most noticeably during negotiations with the league over an agreement that would have replaced the temporary March agreement for baseball during the pandemic. The union held its ground and even won some key P.R. battles and public favor, which have historically always been difficult, and the league was forced to implement a season without a new agreement. It would be foolish to attribute the MLBPA’s recent success entirely to Meyer’s involvement, but it certainly hasn’t hurt. Some owners are starting to notice.
On Tuesday, Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune published details of a conversation with Padres executive chairman Ron Fowler. Among other things, Fowler bemoans Meyer’s presence at the table, saying that he is the reason for the acrimony between the owners and the union. Fowler said, “We had the same people on our negotiating group that we had when we did the last CBA. They had someone new who had a different view of how things should be done. That created a number of problems. We often thought we were negotiating with ourselves, and that’s not a good thing to do.”
If you’re Meyer, or any of the people responsible for bringing him into the MLBPA, Fowler’s words can only be taken as the highest of compliments. Not only did Fowler mention him by name, but he admitted that Meyer got the owners to negotiate against themselves. Sounds like an elite negotiator. And it sounds like the MLBPA is back on the right track.