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Phillips' Appeal Rejected


Richie Phillips and the Major League Umpires Association struck out in their final legal appeal Thursday, clearing the way for the new union to start negotiations with owners.

The National Labor Relations Board certified the results of a November election that kicked out the MLUA and replaced it with a new union, to be called the World Umpires Association.

"I have no comment. It wasn't my appeal," Phillips said.

The new union intends to take a less confrontational approach than Phillips, whose failed resignation strategy last summer cost 22 umpires their jobs.

"We're looking forward to moving ahead with baseball and starting a new relationship, and trying to get all umpires to come together," said AL umpire John Hirschbeck, a leader of the new union.

About 50 of the 71 major league umpires have joined the new union, according to its lawyer, Joel Smith. The new union will meet Sunday in Phoenix to elect officers and a negotiating committee.

Hirschbeck and Smith, who is expected to head negotiations, will have to deal with the plight of the 22 umps who lost their jobs, a group that includes many of Phillips' staunchest supporters and some of baseball's best-known umps, such as Richie Garcia and Terry Tata. The new union wants to get as many as possible re-hired.

"We've attempted to talk with the 22, just as recently as two weeks ago," Hirschbeck said. "Some were responsive to talking with us, many were not."

The labor board's ruling came as the MLUA's grievance to regain the jobs of the 22 resumed in Philadelphia before arbitrator Alan Symonette. Under federal labor law, the old union will remain in charge of the grievance.

It's unclear when negotiations will start to replace the labor contract that expired Dec. 31.

Owners want to merge the umpires from both leagues into one staff and make other changes as part of the elimination of American and National league presidents and offices.

"I think that there's a lot for both sides to look at," Smith said. "What is important here is that the relationship be discussed thoroughly and worked through. If that takes time, it takes time."

Phillips was backed by many NL umpires, and the insurgents had the support of most AL umps. When he became the MLUA head in 1978, rookie umps made $17,500 and the most senior veterans got $40,000. Last season, they made $95,000 to $282,500.

"I think that over his 21 years, he did a lot of good for umpires," Hirschbeck said, "but there's a large group of us that thinks it's time to move in a new direction with baseball."

Concerned that Sandy Alderson, the new executive director of baseball operations in the commissioner's office, would push for change during the negotiations, Phillips called for a mass resignation plan last July, hoping to force an early start to labor talks.

Most AL umps either quickly withdre their resignations or failed to resign, causing the strategy to collapse. By then, owners had hired 25 new umps from the minor leagues and got rid of the 22.

Insurgent umps voted 57-35 in November for the new union, but the MLUA contested the results, claiming owners illegally helped the new union win the election and the insurgents illegally influenced their peers during the voting.

After listening to three days of testimony, NLRB hearing officer David E. Leach III rejected the objections on Jan. 21. The five-man NLRB in Washington adopted Leach's report Thursday in a three-paragraph decision signed by chairman John C. Truesdale and board members Sarah M. Fox and Peter J. Hurtgen.

"We're pleased the board found that we did nothing improper in the election and we're prepared to meet with the chosen bargaining representatives," said Rob Manfred, the executive director of labor relations in the commissioner's office.

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