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WSI News - News Watch

Contraction grievance resumes after talks collapse

December 13th, from the Associated Press

Talks on an agreement that would put off the elimination of teams until after the 2002 season collapsed Thursday and the union resumed its grievance in the case.

The sides were close to agreement on a deal Monday, but three days of talks failed to resolve drafting issues separating the sides.

"We wanted them to acknowledge that we have the right to contract," Rob Manfred, management's top labor lawyer, said. "They just got too narrow. We felt they were limiting our rights as to when and how we can contract. We felt we were better off litigating the issue."

Owners began their cross examination Thursday of Gene Orza, the union's No. 2 official, who opened the hearing last week with two days of testimony before arbitrator Shyam Das in Irving, Texas.

There appeared to be little -- if anything -- of substance keeping the sides apart. But the lawyers, meeting in New York, disagreed over proposed drafts of the deal, which would ensure the Minnesota Twins and Montreal Expos -- the teams most likely to be eliminated -- would play in 2002.

"We will continue with our plans to contract two clubs for the 2002 season and resume negotiations with the Players Association on the effects of contraction," said Paul Beeston, baseball's chief operating officer.

Das had waited three days while lawyers tried to work out their differences.

Owners want the union to acknowledge management unilaterally has the right to fold franchises. Owners say they would bargain over the effects of contraction, such as a dispersal draft of players.

Commissioner Bud Selig's plan to fold franchises was put on hold by the Minnesota courts, which issued an injunction that forces the Twins to play next year at the Metrodome. Baseball's lawyers failed to get an accelerated review by Minnesota's Supreme Court, and the injunction remains in force until at least Dec. 27, when the Minnesota Court of Appeals holds a hearing.

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