Arbitrator rules against motion to dismiss umpires

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Rejecting the owners' attempt to dismiss the case, an arbitrator ruled the umpires' union can try to regain the jobs of 22 of its members through a grievance.

Rejecting the owners' attempt to dismiss the case, an arbitrator ruled the umpires' union can try to regain the jobs of 22 of its members through a grievance.

Arbitrator Alan Symonette will start hearing the case 13 December in Philadelphia, lawyers for umpires and owners said on Sunday.

Owners had argued that the umpires' labour contract said matters of hiring and firing were up to the sole discretion of the American and National league presidents and were not subject to arbitration.

After hearing arguments on 5 November on the motion to dismiss, Symonette informed the sides Friday he was rejecting the motion and would hear the case between 13-16 December.

"The language ... does give league presidents final binding authority to terminate umpires," Symonette wrote in his six-page ruling.

But he also cited another provision of the labour contract, adding, "The issue of whether this decision was an abuse of (their) discretion or was performed in a discriminatory or recriminatory manner is subject to arbitration."

Owners claimed they accepted the resignations of the 22 umpires, effective from 2 September, after the umpires mass resignation strategy collapsed in July. Umpires had hoped to force an early start to negotiations for a new labour contract by resigning en masse, but the strategy backfired when most American League umpires broke with the union leadership and either refused to quit or quickly withdrew their resignations.

Owners then hired 25 new umpires from the minor leagues and accepted the resignations of the 22.

Meanwhile, the dissident umpires filed a petition with the National Labour Relations Board, seeking to decertify the current union, headed since 1978 by Richie Phillips, and form a new union. The dissidents, a large number of them in the American League, want Baltimore lawyer Ron Shapiro, Cal Ripken's agent, to negotiate a labor contract to replace the one that expires 31 December.

Mail voting began earlier this month, and the NLRB will announce the results on Tuesday. A majority of the 93 major league umpires are needed to form a new union.

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