Press Briefing by Secretary of Labor Bob Reich and Former Secretary of Labor Bill Usery
The Briefing Room
11:00 P.M. EST
SECRETARY REICH: Former Secretary Usery and I will continue to answer any questions that any of you has. The hour is late. I feel frustrated; I know many of you must feel frustrated. But we tried very, very hard. The President tried very hard tonight; the Vice President tried very hard; former Secretary of Labor Usery. We did as much as we could do to bring the parties together and ultimately, again, we're hoping that the parties will continue to negotiate. We're hoping that we can get a resolution. We're hoping that we can get their agreement to binding arbitration.
Q: Can you elaborate a bit on the proposal made this evening that gave rise to the thought that you might be able to get the season started? Was this -- is this to suspend the issue --
SECRETARY REICH: Again, I don't want to prejudice where the parties might be going. But I can tell you that what gave us some hope was that the parties seemed to be on the road to agreeing to submit at least some of their issues, if not all of their issues, to binding arbitration voluntarily. But we couldn't quite get them to agree on what issues and how much of the dispute should be submitted to binding arbitration.
Q: That was linked to letting spring training go forward and the season commencing while this was settled?
SECRETARY REICH: That was again linked to having the season go forward. I'm still hoping that the parties can come to that kind of a resolution.
Q: Are you saying that it might be possible for spring training to begin while negotiations are in process?
SECRETARY REICH: Anything is possible; anything is possible. It is up to the parties. Let me just underscore that. If the parties want to resolve this dispute over the next nine days, before pitchers and catchers have got to go to spring training, the parties can do it. We are going to continue doing everything we can to help the parties. We are going to be submitting tomorrow legislation calling for binding arbitration.
The President right now, as you know, has no authority to require binding arbitration.
Q: What was the proposal that was submitted by Mr. Usery? Can you describe that for us?
SECRETARY REICH: I will let the Secretary describe that. There was no specific proposal. It was a framework to which the parties were moving. And I think for the sake of enabling the parties to continue to negotiate, we don't want to say very much. But on the other hand, if Secretary Usery would like to comment, please do.
SECRETARY USERY: In this dispute, after being in hundreds of labor disputes, the people were very -- the parties were very, very far apart. And trying to narrow those issues in a single recommendation that had any hope of bringing together is almost impossible. So we have been trying to make suggested proposals to bring them down that we would have a couple of issues that we could recommend to the parties for resolving those issues.
There are a couple of key issues. If you can get goodfaith bargaining among the parties, coming to the table in good faith to resolve their dispute, it can be resolved in a very short span of time. And I'm certainly hopeful we still can.
Q: Would you recommend that the players give up salary arbitration in return for unrestricted free agency? Was that something that you wanted to --
SECRETARY USERY: We have made a lot of suggestions and a lot of suggestions to the parties because it was almost impossible to get the parties to make proposals across the table to each other. So we have offered a number of things, many of which we did not think one side or the other would agree, but to try to prod and promote collective bargaining, and that's what we've been trying to achieve.
Q: Secretary Reich, if Congress gives you binding arbitration, would there then be a deadline for the parties -- deadline for the completion of the negotiations?
SECRETARY REICH: Again, much of that would be up to the particulars -- what Congress wanted to do. I think we're at a point now -- let me just say a couple of things. First, the President does not have any authority right now to order binding arbitration. I want to compliment former Labor Secretary Usery because he has -- believe me, he has done an extraordinary job, having just a couple of hours of sleep every night for the last few nights. This is tough -- very, very tough negotiation. It is still not over. It is still not over.
We tried very hard to push as far as we could before submitting legislation to Congress. You're asking about timing. I think that we, as the President said, would like legislation as expeditiously as possible so that binding arbitration, if necessary, could be put into effect, because I think the public would like to have baseball.
Q: How long for the binding arbitration? How long is that process?
SECRETARY REICH: The process, traditionally, typically the process of binding arbitration, it could go -- it could be relatively short, it could be a very long period of time. We would hope that the parties, if there were binding arbitration, either voluntary or mandatory binding arbitration, we would hope that the parties could start spring training, would start spring training and move right into the '95 season, but again, that is very much up to the parties.
Q: Mr. Secretary, in planning this, you've got a guy in the West Wing tonight, Cecil Fielder with the Detroit Tigers. There's been a quote in the press that he stands to lose $1 million a month when the regular season begins. Does that not tell you the players have a big problem with what the owners have put forward?
SECRETARY REICH: Well, I tell you -- I have talked to the owners and the players a great deal over the past seven months. Former Secretary Usery has talked to them more intensely over the past four months. I believe both sides have a great deal to lose. Both sides have already endured losses. The American public has lost a lot in terms of the World Series and just the last season. Let's hope that the stakes are high enough, the losses are enough to motivate the parties to do what we all hope they're going to do.
Q: Secretary Usery, you said a minute ago, you indicated that you thought maybe this could be solved if you could get the parties to bargain in good faith. Could you say which of the parties are not bargaining in good faith, and in your opinion why have they been unable to bargain in good faith?
SECRETARY USERY: Well, you know it would be impossible for me to tell you which one has or has not. It would depend on the issue. And anyway, if I said that I could never mediate a dispute. What I say, if I can get both parties to bargain in good faith, we can resolve the differences. There is deep mistrust among the parties, obviously. And we must try to overcome that. And I think -- I still think that we can. If people will sit down in good faith we can resolve it.
Q: Mr. Secretary, could I follow up?
SECRETARY REICH: Which Secretary?
Q: You. You indicated that -- the President indicated himself that he tried to get both sides voluntarily to accept binding arbitration without having to go to Congress. The players, as you know, in the past have indicated a willingness to go binding arbitration. The owners have been the ones who have refused binding arbitration. So would it be fair to say that the owners rejected the President's request for voluntary binding arbitration?
SECRETARY REICH: No, it would not be fair. And I don't want to get into the details. I just -- I think it's appropriate for me to say simply that the parties could not agree on binding arbitration. Neither party could agree on any formulation of the binding arbitration.
That doesn't mean they won't agree in the future. Again, our hope is that we do not have to use the authority if Congress determines, decides to grant the President authority to mandate compulsory binding arbitration. Our hope is that the President won't have to use that authority, that we saw perhaps the beginning tonight of an agreement between the parties to move toward binding arbitration. That would be one way of looking at -- that would be a positive way of looking at what occurred tonight.
Q: Mr. Usery, please. In all of your years of negotiating, have you ever seen two parties that mistrust each other as much as these two?
SECRETARY USERY: I do not believe I have.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END11:10 P.M. EST
William J. Clinton, Press Briefing by Secretary of Labor Bob Reich and Former Secretary of Labor Bill Usery Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/270224