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Umpires Want Phillips Out

Dissident umpires launched their campaign Thursday to oust union head Richie Phillips, saying they were starting to collect signatures to decertify the current union and start a new one.

The dissidents claim they have the support of more than 40 umpires, enough to force the National Labor Relations Board to hold an election by secret ballot.

It's unclear, however, if they have the backing of a majority of the 93 major league umpires, a group that includes 22 who were let go earlier this month but continue to get paid through Dec. 31 under a settlement worked out in federal court.

"We want a union that does not encourage its members to follow flawed and dangerous strategies," 13 umpires on the organizing board said in a statement.

Ten of the 13 members of the board, which calls itself the Major League Umpires Independent Organizing Committee, were among the 14 who issued a statement July 29 criticizing the leadership of the current union.

The three newcomers included Fieldin Culbreth and Mike Everitt, two of the new umpires hired by the American League, and Larry Young, a veteran AL ump.

Wally Bell, Mark Hirschbeck and Jeff Nelson, the only three NL umpires to break with the union leadership before the mass resignation strategy collapsed, are the only NL members of the board.

Under federal labor law, the NLRB conducts a ballot if it receives a request from 30 percent or more of the bargaining unit, which means 28 umpires can force an election. The dissidents are asking for votes to both decertify the current union and to designate a new union as their exclusive collective bargaining agent.

Phillips was in a meeting and could not be reached for comment.

The umpiring controversy began July 14 when more than 50 umpires said they would resign en masse to force an early start to negotiations to replace their labor deal, which expires Dec. 31.

Their strategy collapsed when more than two dozen umps either failed to resign or quickly withdrew their resignations. All umpires then tried to withdraw their resignations, but by then baseball had hired 25 news umps.

In an effort to force baseball to keep the 22 umps let go, the union has filed a grievance against the leagues. However, the sides still haven't agreed on arbitrator.

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