MLB union head watching Wisconsin

Updated: February 22, 2011, 2:22 PM ET
ESPNNewYork.com

At least one important person in the world of baseball is looking at the budget stalemate in Wisconsin with interest.

Republican Gov. Scott Walker has proposed a budget that would curb collective bargaining rights, causing unions to protest and some Democratic senators to boycott a vote on the measure.

Major League Baseball union head Michael Weiner is touring spring training sites, talking to players about the state of negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement because the current one expires in December. He's watching the situation in Wisconsin.

"I think that the principal, and perhaps the only reason, why labor relations in baseball has been less contentious over the course of the last 15 years is because of a recognition by management that the union is not only a part of the landscape but a productive part of the landscape," he said from Mets camp in Port St. Lucie, Fla.

"And if anything happened in Wisconsin or otherwise to change that, or to put it different, if anything happened in Wisconsin that would cause the current owners to make the mistake that owners in the past have made, which is underestimating the commitment of baseball players to their union, that would be a very bad thing."

Talks over new agreements in the NFL and NBA aren't going so well. The NFL's labor deal expires at the end of the day March 3, and the union fears that team owners will lock out players -- and threaten the 2011 season.

The NBA's deal expires June 30, and commissioner David Stern ominously said at All-Star Weekend that the sides there "have each expressed to the other our dissatisfaction with each other's proposals."

Those two situations obviously have much more immediate bearing than what is happening in baseball, but for someone such as Weiner, the situation in Wisconsin brings into focus the role of unions and budgets in general.

"In the short run, in other words what's happening in Wisconsin, do I see it having an impact on the bargaining for the basic agreement that's going to expire nine or 10 months from now? Probably not," he said. "But these kinds of developments have ongoing impacts in terms of the public perception and perhaps management perception of what the role of a union is. There is a potential negative there."

Weiner expects meetings about the next CBA to be held in both Florida and Arizona before the regular season opens.

Weiner also addressed the Mets' issues concerning the lawsuit that the trustee for victims of Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme has brought against the team.

Weiner said he has been assured by the commissioner's office that players' guaranteed contracts will not be affected by the Wilpons' legal issues.

"As far as broader questions, look, it's in the interests of everybody associated with baseball that the National League franchise in New York be a strong franchise. And the Wilpons have always attempted to field a competitive team. They've had success at doing that during their tenure. And we certainly hope they're in a position to continue to do that."

Information from ESPNNewYork.com's Adam Rubin and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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