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The Legal Playing Field Everything I needed to know about the law I learned on the softball diamond

THERE IS NO JOY IN MUDVILLE – (With apologies to Ernest Thayer, Bob Rae and Jack MacDonald)

Posted in Baseball, Collective Bargaining, Labour Law, Ontario Government

Is Casey going to strike out?

August 12, 1994 was the day that ball players last walked off the job or struck out literally in MLB.  That Strike resulted in the balance of the 1994 Season including the World Series being cancelled.  No one needs to remind former fans of the Montreal Expos about the details they have them painfully etched in their memory banks.  (The Expos had the best record in all of the MLB when the 1994 Strike ended the Season abruptly.)

When the Strike dragged on into 1995 without a settlement, MLB decided to use replacement players/workers including replacement umpires in the 1995 Season.  Notice that the term used here is “Replacement” workers not “Scab” workers.

As a consequence of the Socialist Government inspired amendments to the Labour Relations Act circa 1993 (Bill 40) the use of “replacement workers”, during a strike, was, then, essentially prohibited in the Province of Ontario and the Ontario Labour Relations Board literally relished the publicity of ruling that ball games could not proceed in Toronto with “replacements”.  (Coincidentally and ironically, circa 1979-1980 the OLRB had a successful mixed softball team in the Ontario Government league and skilled players were accepted from any and all sources…just win baby!)

Accordingly, the Toronto Blue Jays hatched plans, if necessary, to play their 1995 Season home games in Dunedin, Florida. This became unnecessary when the Players voted to return to work after approximately 8 months walking the picket lines rather than running the base lines.  Replacement Players were used in Pre-Season games but the Strike ended before the 1995 Regular Season commenced.

Baseball went back to work in 1995 and the Ontario electorate threw the Socialists and their “progressive” anti-replacement worker legislation out the doors at Queen’s Park when Premier Mike Harris and the Progressive Conservatives came to power. So it has remained for 20 years.

Now, in 2015, a clamour arises again for the provincial government to restrict the ability of businesses to effectively operate during a strike and to alter the balance of power between employers and unions.  This is entirely unjustified and is simply a knee jerk reaction to an ineffective strike.  Our labour laws are intended to promote free collective bargaining between employers and unions.  The laws are intended to permit the parties, where necessary, to exercise legitimate economic power in support of their respective bargaining positions.  Suffice it to say our laws are not intended to save one or the other of the parties from their own ill advised or ill conceived negotiating strategies.

Not every game has a happy ending.  Sometimes, Casey – “mighty Casey, has struck out.”