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Congress Won't Act on Baseball Exemption : Labor: Legislators say they will take up antitrust again if dispute hasn't been settled by January.


Congress has given up trying to repeal baseball's antitrust exemption before it adjourns next Friday, meaning the players' union can fight unilateral implementation of a salary cap through the National Labor Relations Board but not the courts.

Legislators said Friday that if the labor dispute hasn't been resolved by the time Congress reconvenes in January, they will reconsider removal of the exemption, which has left baseball immune from antitrust laws since 1922.

Sen. Howard Metzenbaum (D-Ohio) said he decided to give up his attempt to attach an amendment repealing the exemption as it applies to labor issues to an appropriations bill for the District of Columbia when notified by sponsors of a similar bill in the House that they would not be able to get it to a vote before adjournment.

He expressed confidence, however, that Congress would repeal the exemption if players are still on strike in January.

"Unless Congress acts, the owners will continue to abuse the players, the cities and the fans because they don't give a damn," Metzenbaum said. "They are totally arrogant."

Acting Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement that Metzenbaum's attempt would have been opposed by two-thirds of the Senate and that baseball was grateful for that support.

"It is the position of the clubs that the labor laws of our country are based on the concept of free collective bargaining without governmental intervention, and that baseball's . . . exemption had nothing at all to do with the players' decision to strike," Selig said. "We are hopeful the players and their union will now make an earnest attempt to settle our dispute through collective bargaining."

Donald Fehr, the union's executive director, had said the players would end their strike if Congress passed a bill that repealed the exemption and prevented a salary cap from going into effect until the courts decided if the owners had violated antitrust laws by implementing.

Said Lauren Rich, assistant general counsel of the union: "Naturally, we're disappointed, but we feel that we made a lot of ground this term and made a lot of friends. We knew this would be difficult when Don began the (lobbying) process two years ago, but we feel that Congress is on the verge of treating players as other citizens are treated and treating baseball as every other big business is treated."


--A newly formed operations committee, composed of club owners and executives, met in New York on Thursday and Friday to begin shaping the rules under which baseball will operate this winter and the final form of the proposal that the owners are expected to implement before Nov. 1.

--The Associated Press reported that nine of the 18 players on whose behalf the union had filed default notices have been paid by their respective clubs. The 18 lost their salaries when recalled from the minors shortly before or since the start of the strike Aug. 12. The notices said the players would be declared free agents if the clubs had not paid them in 10 days.

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