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What can we learn from Major League Baseball’s currently unemployed players? Employee satisfaction has become increasingly important as employees expect fulfillment in their careers (both financially and with work-life balance programs and benefits). Whether unionized or not, it is important to analyze a company’s culture and the industry to consider what motivates employees.
Some of baseball’s biggest free agents haven’t found work yet. Why? In recent years, the players have given ground to the owners of MLB teams, and now, more than 100 free agents remain unsigned as Spring Training begins. Statistics suggest that the cause of baseball’s frozen labor market has been years of weak negotiations by the MLB Players Union. According to Fangraphs.com, the players’ overall shares of revenue have declined sharply since 1995. In 2002, players received 56 percent of the league’s revenue, and in 2014, it fell to 38 percent. This decrease in revenue sharing, along with 15 consecutive years of increased overall profit for the league, has led to heated tensions as players wait to be paid.
The most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between players and owners was signed in December 2016, and will last until 2021. Agents and players have criticized the MLBPA for focusing on quality-of-life-issues instead of prioritizing increases in revenue sharing. While the 2016 CBA did result in more days off, clubhouse chefs and more space on team buses, it overlooked the economic issues that have led to this winter of discontent. A strike may be in the works. If the sport can avert its first strike since 1994, there will still be an increase in player dissatisfaction and decrease in morale. This can potentially affect player performance (and subsequently ticket sales) when the season starts.
*Special thanks to Thomas Raine, who assisted in the drafting of this post. Thomas is a second year Juris Doctor Candidate at the University of Miami School of Law.