Labor Day in Baseball
It was Labor Day in DC and the Nationals bats were booming. It was a great day at the park. There was only one thing missing from the action and the celebrations, the Labor Movement or any mention of working Americans.
There were two big ladder trucks from the DC Fire Department parked outside the main gate and the ladders were extended skyward with a cable strung between them and a gi-normous flag fluttering toward the ground. It was clearly intended to evoke the memories of 9-11. That attempt to tug at patriotic heart strings continued into the game.
Labor Day is the day when we celebrate working Americans, not 9-11. It is a holiday brought to you by the Labor Movement, of which the Major League Baseball Players Association is a part. Many might argue that the players union is hardly part of the same labor movement that probably represents those firefighters outside the park. Many Americans would place a huge asterisk by the MLBPA, maybe even a dollar sign. If they say that, you can bet they are not part of the brotherhood–and sisterhood–of organized labor.
Yes, professional baseball players make very good money, but they do so because they finally banded together and formed a union. Unlike many other working Americans they don’t let anybody screw around with their union, either. So it was hardly surprising when the Lerners–the billionaires who own the Washington Nationals–forgot to celebrate Labor Day and tried to make everyone in attendance think that something else entirely was going on.
As Labor Day draws to a close around the two leagues, I thought it would be nice to try to swim against the tide created by ownership. This is a day to celebrate the players, the coaches, the vendors, the ticket sellers, all of the personnel who make major league baseball and minor league baseball possible. It is all those people who together make a wonderful enterprise work for the fans, of which I am one.
None of those working stiffs own any part of the game. They probably should since many of them give their lives to it. I know a Yankees vendor who has been selling stuff around NYC since the late 1950′s and he still does it because he loves the game, not because he makes big money doing it. He is retired from a good job, but cannot stand to be away from the game.
However you view the people who work in the game, of one thing I am certain. If the Lerners, the Reinsdorfs, and the Steinbrnenners had their way, the whole lot of them would make a lot less. And I know that because that is exactly how it was before there was a players union.
Ballplayers once played for six or so months of the year and then had jobs in the off season because they did not make enough to support their families during the regular season. They had no retirement to speak of, no health care–certainly not for their families and not in the off-season.
That was all changed because the players listened to a man who belongs in the Hall of Fame–Marvin Miller. He was probably one of those horrid socialists, though the owners might call him a terrorist. But he convinced the players to stick with the union and in doing so the players got what all Americans deserve–fair representation with management, better pay, and better working conditions.
When Miller was close to election to the Hall, the number of players voting on election of non-players was reduced and the chances of him taking his rightful place as one of the most important souls to affect the game in a century shrank to zero. The Lerners and the Reinsdorfs and the Steinbrenners will not let it happen.
And they will not let Americans celebrate Labor Day at the ballpark, because they are the ones pulling the plug on the labor movement across this fair land. So don’t begrudge the baseball players their union. They got theirs the old fashioned way; they went on strike for it. They listened to grizzled veterans of the movement and said public opinion be damned, we deserve our fair share. And that is how they got it.
It should be that way for all working Americans and that is what we celebrate on Labor Day. So whether you celebrated Labor Day at a major league ballpark or a picnic ground with a softball game in full swing, it was a holiday brought to you by Organized Labor. So Play ball!! and wherever you are watching it or playing it, ‘look for the union label.’ You will be glad you did.