Publication date: 03-04-2006
Minors umps vote to authorize strike
Also won't fill in on big-league games
By Ronald Blum / Associated Press
Minor league baseball umpires voted Friday to authorize their first strike since forming a union in 2000 and said Class AAA members would not serve as fill-in major league umps until there is a contract.
The minor league umps, whose five-year labor deal expired in November, had previously voted not to work spring training games. The decision whether to strike will be made by the union's officers.
"Our goal all along has been to get a fair contract without a strike, and we still hope that we can get it done," said Andy Roberts, president of the Association of Minor League Umpires. "Our members have told us loud and clear, however, that they're prepared to strike if that's what it takes to get a fair contract."
The union represents about 220 umpires in 16 leagues. Management and the union have not met since Jan. 31, when the Professional Baseball Umpire Corporation made what the union termed management's final offer.
Triple-A umpires regularly work major league games during the regular season, filling in for big league umps who are injured or on vacation.
"We have our regular crews. If somebody gets injured and they're unwilling to work, we'll find somebody willing to work," said Rob Manfred, Major League Baseball's executive vice president of labor relations.
Pat O'Conner, chief operating officer of minor league baseball's governing body, the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, did not return a telephone call seeking comment.
Roberts, an umpire with the Triple-A International League, had said the average salary for minor league umpires has remained unchanged for a decade. It is about $15,000 at Triple-A, $12,000 at Double-A, $10,000 in full-season A-ball and $5,500 in rookie leagues.
Umpires have asked for annual increases in a four-year contract. O'Conner has refused to comment publicly on negotiations.