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'They need to keep working'

President Bush urges players, owners to reach agreement

Posted: Friday August 16, 2002 4:04 PM
Updated: Friday August 16, 2002 7:14 PM
  President Bush was the Texas Rangers' managing general partner from 1989-94. AP

CRAWFORD, Texas (AP) -- President Bush will be "furious" if baseball players carry out their threat to strike, sternly urging players and owners to resolve their differences.

"They need to keep working," Bush said Friday after the union's executive board set an Aug. 30 deadline for a walkout.

The former Texas Rangers owner didn't say whether he will take a role in the bitter dispute between owners and players, as President Bill Clinton did during the 1994-95 strike.

Shortly after players announced their strike date Friday, Bush walked up to reporters and called on both sides to find an accord.

"The baseball owners and the baseball players must understand that if there is a stoppage, a work stoppage, a lot of fans are going to be furious, and I'm one of them," Bush said.

"It's very important for these people to get together," he said. "They can make every excuse in the book not to reach an accord; It is bad for them not to reach an accord."

The key issue blocking a settlement is the owners' proposal for a luxury tax on high-payroll teams. The union thinks taking away too much money from the high-spending teams would slow salary increases.

Early last year, when a baseball strike was looming, Bush said he would stay out of negotiations, saying he would "provide false hope" in a labor dispute.

Technically, there is no role for the executive branch other than lobbying the parties. There already has been a mediator appointed by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, Pete Donatello. He has been in contact with the parties, but has not been to bargaining sessions.

In 1994, just after the FMCS got involved after the start of the strike, Clinton went around the agency and got players and owners to agree to use former Labor Secretary W.J. Usery as their mediator. Ultimately, he had little effect on bargaining. Unable to get the sides to agree, he proposed recommendations, which the union rejected and the Clinton administration refused to try to get the union to accept.

Because Bush was managing partner of the Texas Rangers from 1989 to 1999, he is in a unique position. The players' association distrusts him because he is a former owner.

Bush wanted to be commissioner before he ran for governor of Texas.

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