Although American professional sports may be regarded as big business that presupposes the existence of labor disputes, the results of their settlement strongly depend on both parties’ actions. Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Major League Umpires’ Association (MLUA) had a long history of tension. At the end of their collective bargaining agreement in 1999, the MLUA organized the mass resignation of its members, supposing that the interaction with MLB would be inefficient and a lockout was imminent (Alcaro, 2003). While the MLUA’s fifty-seven of sixty-eight individuals who had sent resignation letters later claimed “that this was merely a symbolic gesture in an effort to force negotiations,” MLB accepted their position (Alcaro, 2003, p. 336). As a result, the majority of them had to rescind their resignation, however, several members had already been replaced and lost their jobs. In this case, by mass resignation, the MLUA neither guaranteed the safety of its members’ positions nor reached an agreement in its favor.
In turn, when the National Football League Referees’ Association (NFLRA) had a dispute with the National Football League (NFL) in 2001 concerning per-game wage increase for referees and faced the latter’s refusal, it had absolutely another strategy. In particular, the NFLRA accepted a lockout instead of strikes and mass resignation. As a result, the majority of referees were temporarily replaced for an upcoming season, however, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, showed the necessity of negotiations and productive performance. Therefore, the members of the NFLRA saved their jobs and received wages’ “immediate raise of 50%, rising to 100% within two years” (Alcaro, 2003, p. 358). In general, although a lockout may be regarded as an employer’s tool of economic pressure, it is a favorable decision for unions as it has particular guarantees. Although the NFLRA did not reach an agreement in its favor to receive a desirable wage increase, its locked-out employees were not “gambling with job security” as they cannot be permanently replaced without a legitimate and substantial business justification for this decision (Alcaro, 2003, p. 358). In turn, mass resignation may end with a complete failure.
Alcaro, F. (2003). Alcaro, F. (2002). When in doubt, get locked out: A comparison of the 2001 lockout of the National Football League Referees’ Association and the failed 1999 resignation scheme of the Major League Baseball Umpires’ Association. University of Pennsylvania Journal of Labor and Employment Law, 5(2), 335-361.