Donald Fehr, the current head of the Major League Baseball Players Union (MLBPA), announced his retirement Monday after 14-years as head of the powerful union.
Fehr turns 61 next month and after 25 years of total service, he is retiring his post no later then next March. He has recommended that general counsel Michael Weiner take over his post.
Fehr has overseen several major changes that have positively impacted baseball players, including a successful lawsuit against MLB Owners for collusion against free agents, winning the players’ union $280 million. He has also successfully negotiated 5 different labor agreements with owners, oversaw the 1994 players’ strike and was the head negotiator for the players union when the landmark labor agreement on steriod use was accepted by the owners and the players.
Fehr’s influence on the players union is undeniable. When he became executive director in 1983, the average player made $289,000. Fehr’s influence made that number grow massively. By 1996 the player’s average salary was $1.176 million. This year, the average salary is almost 3 times that – $3.24 million.
Despite all of his success with labor negotiations, Fehr has come under criticism for his lack of oversight regarding baseball’s steroid problem. Fehr resisted most forms of testing initially and many have criticized him for miscalculating the size of the problem and for turning a blind eye for years.
Criticism aside, many people from the baseball world have come out to praise Fehr for the work he has done for the player’s union.
Bud Selig said in a statement: “Don has represented his constituency with passion, loyalty and great diligence. Although we have had our differences, I have always respected his role. In recent years, we have worked together to find common ground for the betterment of the game, which will have resulted in 16 years of unprecedented labor peace by the end of our current collective bargaining agreement. We hope to continue to build upon the game’s prosperity as we work with the new leadership of the Players Association.”
JJ Putz, Mets pitcher and union rep: “He’s done so many good things for the game, even more so for the players.”
Marvin Miller, the 92 year-old founder of the union: “Overall, on balance, I think he’s done a fine job. It’s still one of the most solid unions you’re going to find anywhere. Whenever I’m asked this, one thought that occurs to me is that Don faced some problems I never had to face. And I’m not talking about the drug issue or anything like that.”