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Not even close

Umpires vote 57-35 to form another union

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Posted: Wednesday December 01, 1999 10:27 AM

  Richie Phillips has led the umpires' union for 20 years. AP

NEW YORK (AP) - Richie Phillips' 21-year reign as head of the baseball umpires ended Tuesday when his members voted to form another union.

In a mail vote conducted by the National Labor Relations Board, 57 umpires voted to form a new union, 35 voted to retain the existing union and one vote was voided because an umpire signed the secret ballot.

"Today is a statement by all umpires that it's time for a change," said AL umpire John Hirschbeck, who helped lead the dissidents who overthrew Phillips. "We want a union that is run by umpires and advised by attorneys."

Under federal law, a majority determined the result of the election.

The NLRB will certify the election as official in seven days unless an objection is filed.

"The other union won. I'm upset," said union president Jerry Crawford, who said Phillips' union would likely file objections some time in the next seven days.

In the weeks leading up to the election, most AL umpires appeared to support the dissidents, headed by AL umps Hirschbeck, Joe Brinkman and Dave Phillips - who is not related to Richie Phillips.

Most NL umpires backed Richie Phillips and Crawford, who sat with his elbows on the table as the votes were counted. Brinkman said it would take about one year for a new union to gain support of all umpires.

"I think they'll come back," Brinkman said. "It's just a matter of time. It's a healing process."

A large number of AL umpires broke with Phillips' strategy of mass resignations in July, causing it to collapse. Twenty-two umpires lost their jobs when owners hired 25 new umps from the minor leagues.

The union filed a grievance to regain the jobs of the 22, and arbitrator Alan Symonette rejected the owners' motion to dismiss the case, scheduled for argument Dec. 13-16.

"Richie Phillips is very, very, very concerned about the 22 guys," Crawford said. "He's been pretty much out of the daily operation of the union. I don't think it was a strong indictment of Richie. They won. I guess they had a stronger campaign than we had."

Under labor law, the old union led by Phillips will continue to run the grievance trying to get back the jobs of the 22. "We won't interfere," said Ron Shapiro, who advised the dissidents. "We'll do everything we can from a legal standpoint to support it."

Phillips led umpires through a seven-week strike in 1979, a four-game strike during the 1984 postseason and a strike of several hours that caused many to miss 1991 season openers. In addition, umpires were locked out for the first eight days of the 1995 season.

When he took over, rookie umpires made $17,500 and the most senior veterans got $40,000. This year, they made a minimum of $95,000 and up to $282,500, including postseason bonuses they all receive.

Related information
Union President Jerry Crawford says he's disappointed, but not surprised, by the vote. (126 K)
American League umpire John Hirschbeck says self-governance was the most important factor in the vote. (127 K)
Hirschbeck says the umpires want to keep pace with the changes happening in Major League Baseball. (169 K)
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