By Cliff Corcoran
According to a report by ESPN New York's Adam Rubin, Major League Baseball's owners are reviving a plan to eliminate the league's requirement that teams offer defined-benefit pension plans to all of their non-player employees. That plan, which could leave many of those employees without pensions entirely, could take effect with a vote at the owners meetings in New York on May 8 and 9.
Per Rubin, the owners attempted to eliminate that requirement a year ago, but Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, "chastised his bretheren for being petty with the lives of ordinary people given the riches produced by the sport," successfully winning over enough support to get the measure voted down. However, Rubin reports, a majority of the owners are once again in favor of eliminating the pension requirement, which would effect many in front offices, training staffs, minor league staffs and scouting departments, some of whom make less than $40,000 a year in an industry that has experienced annual growth and revenues in excess of $8 billion. The proposed measure would not wipe out existing pension commitments, but would freeze them, preventing further accrual and would not require teams to offer new plans. Though this plan was originally floated by a "small-market owner," and does not prevent teams from offering alternative pension plans, I have a hard time seeing it as anything other than a purely evil move on the part of baseball's miserly owners to who continue to cry poor despite ample evidence of their wealth. It's reminiscent of when George Steinbrenner reacted to the 2002 Collective Bargaining Agreement by threatening to eliminate the dental plans of 150 of his lowest-paid employees, plans which cost him a grand total of roughly $100,000. Steinbrenner ultimately abandoned that plan due to public pressure, and I can only hope the owners will do the same with this despicable plot which would be far more harmful to the finances of the effected employees than it would be beneficial to the game's Dickensian owners.