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22 Umps Seeking To Get Jobs Back

November 5, 1999

NEW YORK (AP) _ A day before a grievance hearing to determine whether 22 umpires get their jobs back, baseball owners said Thursday the union hasn’t shown proof it lived up to an agreement reached in federal court.

Umpires, meanwhile, were scrambling to raise money to pay their legal bills. According to a memo sent by union president Jerry Crawford to umpires on Oct. 6, umpires owe $123,261 to a New York law firm, $11,768 to a New York public relations firm and an unspecified amount to a Philadelphia law firm.

A lawyer for the owners sent the Major League Umpires Association a letter Thursday asking for a copy of the $100,000 bond the union agreed to obtain as part of a settlement approved by a federal judge in Philadelphia in September.

Under the agreement, the 22 umpires will be paid through Dec. 31, but if they lose the grievance, the money will be reimbursed from their termination pay. The $100,000 bond covers umpires who don’t qualify for termination pay.

``Now that we are about to commence the arbitration,″ lawyer Howard Ganz wrote, ``I request that you provide us with a copy of the bond the MLUA has obtained.″

Neither union head Richie Phillips nor union president Jerry Crawford returned telephone messages.

As part of the settlement, owners agreed to allow umpires to file the grievance claiming the 22 umpires were illegally terminated Sept. 2.

Owners accepted the resignations of the 22 umpires after a mass-resignation plan failed. On Friday, they will ask arbitrator Alan Symonette to dismiss the case, arguing that it is beyond the scope of his authority.

The umpires’ labor contract ``clearly and unambiguously gives the league presidents sole discretion over such decisions,″ owners said in a legal brief filed Wednesday.

Umpires retained Susan Davis and her New York firm, Cohen, Weiss & Simon, in August, prior to the suit that led to the federal court settlement, and paid the firm a $65,000 advance. While umpires originally intended to use Davis in the grievance hearing, they instead will be represented by a Philadelphia-based lawyer, Tom Jennings.

In his memo, Crawford asked umpires to assign their $20,000 postseason bonuses to the union to pay those legal and public relations bills. It’s not clear how many complied.

``We cannot walk away from our obligations to these firms,″ Crawford said in the memo, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press. ``We cannot walk away from our commitment to the 22.″

Phillips is battling dissident umpires, who want to form a new union and have Ron Shapiro, the agent for Cal Ripken, negotiate their next labor contract. Mail voting starts Friday, and the National Labor Relations Board will announce the results Nov. 30.

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