Friday, June 27, 2008

Union to the rescue

We've all seen cases in which a union goes to bat for one of its members who has been fired for committing what, to most people, would be an unforgivable offense, such as stealing from an employer or being drunk on the job. Yet very often, the union takes the fired worker's case to an arbitrator and gets him reinstated, usually with back pay. The players association that rules Major League Baseball is no different. Former Pirates pitcher Shawn Chacon was put on waivers Thursday by the Houston Astros, his most recent employer, after he allegedly attacked the team's general manager, Ed Wade. Chacon reportedly had been grousing to anyone who would listen after he was moved from his starting spot into the bullpen. Wade asked manager Cecil Cooper to call Chacon in for a meeting to discuss the situation, and the pitcher repeatedly refused. In my book, the team would have been well within its rights at that point to fire Chacon for insubordination and conduct detrimental to the team. But Wade went to the team dining room to make a personal appeal for Chacon to meet with him and Cooper. An argument ensued, and the dispute reportedly ended with Chacon throwing Wade to the ground not once, but twice. If no other team picks up Chacon, the Astros intend to terminate his contract for cause, a move that would cost Chacon $1 million or more. That's where the union comes in. "Based on the information we have to date, we believe the Astros' response violates the Basic Agreement," said union general counsel Michael Weiner. "If Shawn Chacon clears waivers and is released, we will pursue appropriate relief on his behalf." Because, of course, we must preserve the right of hulking athletes to attack their bosses. One would think the Astros would win a legal battle, based on a provision in the standard contract that says a player can be terminated if he fails to "conform his personal conduct to the standards of good citizenship." Last I checked, throwing a guy to the ground is not good citizenship. Heck, it might even be worthy of a criminal charge. Also, the players union and other labor organizations would have a lot more credibility if they sometimes said, "You know, this is a bad guy. The company was right to cut him loose." But when arbitrators are issuing so many stupid decisions, who can blame them for working the system?



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