The MLB is shutting down over a labor dispute — and it’s not just a pro-sports trend.
Three strikes… and you’re (locked) out. Major League Baseball owners locked out players yesterday after failing to reach a deal with the players’ union — its first shutdown in 27 years. When workers strike, they refuse to work; when employers lock out, they refuse to letemployees work. Now all 30 teams are shut down, and no trades are allowed until a deal is reached.
- Players want a higher salary minimum (it’s currently $571K) and more trade flexibility. Average MLB salaries fell last year, while MLB franchise values jumped.
- Owners say players’ demands are too high. MLB teams spent $2B on free agents this year, including a record deal for one pitcher that pays $43M per season.
- It’s the offseason, so games haven’t been cancelled — yet. But the dispute’s expected to last weeks and could cut into the season.
Not the first labor curveball… MLB has had nine labor stoppages, including four lockouts. They haven’t usually interfered with regular-season games, but the 1994 strike resulted in the cancelation of 900 games — including the World Series. And MLB attendance didn’t rebound for more than a decade.
- Higher stakes: Today, the average MLB team is worth $1.9B — 10X more than during the 1994 strike — so an in-season lockdown would be way costlier.
Labor is gaining power… and not just in sports. Pro athletes have leverage to negotiate with owners thanks to powerful players’ unions. And because of labor shortages and mass quittings, workers across the economy have gained bargaining power this year, too. That’s led to rising wages and better benefits — and the highest level of support for unions since 1965. Work stoppages are becoming common in other industries, from Kelloggs and John Deere factories to BuzzFeed’s newsroom (just yesterday).