May 23, 1970: Second CBA brings impartial arbitrator to baseball

May 23rd, 2016

There was a list of incremental improvements players could feel satisfied about on May 23, 1970 when they agreed to their second Basic Agreement with Major League Baseball, including an increase in the minimum salary to $13,500 by the end of its three-year term.
But two of the improvements in the Players Association's second round of collective bargaining would help shape the players' relationship with the owners to this day. First, was the players' right to be represented by agents in their individual contract negotiations with the clubs.
Even more important, however, was the right to have grievances arising from the Basic Agreement settled by a neutral, third-party arbitrator.
Marvin Miller, the union's first executive director, considered that gain the most important one in the organization's early history.
The negotiations had earlier reached something of a stalemate. On April 5, the contract deadline passed without a new agreement. Then, on May 1, the owners submitted what they called their "final offer," which Miller summarized and put to a vote of players without a recommendation.
The players resoundingly rejected that offer, 503-89, before the two sides went back to negotiations and reached an agreement several weeks later.
One of the union's founding fathers, Jim Bunning, knew the importance of the deal beyond the dollar increases.
"I made a strong speech in favor of the offer because I knew how hard we've worked to get that concession about submitting player grievances to an arbitrator," the Hall-of-Fame pitcher told The Sporting News.
The value of an independent neutral arbitrator was that it replaced the "judge and jury" system and paved the way for players to make many of their future gains and settle disputes in the fairest way possible. Notably, in 1975, it was arbitrator Peter Seitz's decision in the Andy Messersmith case that gave players free-agency rights.