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MLB now acknowledges that owners are discussing changes to the pension plan

Mar 21, 2013, 8:23 AM EDT

Rob Manfred

The other day, when Adam Rubin reported that MLB owners were considering eliminating the pension plan offered to non-uniformed employees like scouts, administrative staff and the like, MLB Vice President Rob Manfred said that there had been “no discussions” about eliminating the pension plans.

Rubin has updated his report:

MLB executive vice president Rob Manfred acknowledged that candid discussions on the topic have gone on for “several years,” but he disputed that pensions will go away entirely.

“No one is suggesting that pension plans are going to be eliminated,” he said. “What the conversation has been about is allowing individual clubs more flexibility as to what exactly their pension plan is going to look like. Nobody is suggesting there is going to be no plan … for anybody. The issue is in the current arrangement we essentially mandate a particular type of defined benefit pension plan. The question is whether the individual team should have more flexibility to design a program that is effective to them.”

Well, that is a discussion, actually. And, actually, teams were already able to opt out of the plan and institute their own as long as it conformed in certain respects to the existing plan.  It’s also worth noting that every company in the history of commerce who cut benefits to employees did so under the guise of “flexibility.” It’s the number on H.R. buzzword for “you guys are now going to be paying more for health insurance” or “you guys are now going to be paying for your own retirement” and the like.

There is a suggestion in the article that MLB may consider keeping things status quo for existing employees and simply not offer pensions to new hires. That would be a way, way better solution than the one Rubin first reported the other day. At least that gives potential hires notice as to what they’re getting into and does not change things for people in midstream.

But a larger lesson here: when Rob Manfred says that something is not so, wait a couple of days and that position may … evolve.

  1. jarathen - Mar 21, 2013 at 8:56 AM

    What a crock. I’ve seen so many companies do well and yet somehow the health insurance gets worse, the pay isn’t increasing with inflation, etc., while CEOs continue to rake in the cash. Heck, the takeover specialists who ran Hostess into the ground still made millions just to stay on and sell of pieces of the company.

    It’s like ’80s guy from Futurama never left us at all, even with bonitis.

    • heyblueyoustink - Mar 21, 2013 at 9:18 AM

      Ah, Twinkies.

      While the management of that company over the past half decade has been nothing short of criminal ( I believe they should be investigated ) , as someone with a personal connection to that whole thing, please keep in mind it was the stubborness of a minority union, even after the majority unions had agreed to compensation restructuring that ultimately led to the decision to torpedo Hostess in it’s entirety.

      Look into it, the union head of the majority union chastizes the minority union over the whole thing at one point.

      But as for the Twinkies:

      “Oh, this Twinkie thing, it ain’t over yet.”

      • historiophiliac - Mar 21, 2013 at 9:27 AM

        The stubbornness of a minority union not to agree to get screwed just because the bigger union was? What a bunch of jerks. I can’t believe they were so unwilling to take another paycut so they’d go from making about $45K to less than $30K in <10 years. How dare they draw a line in the sand and take their chances w/ new management (which they effectively forced to happen). Oh, and, yeah, upper management still got their money.

      • heyblueyoustink - Mar 21, 2013 at 10:17 AM

        See, here’s the thing. I don’t have an opinion on Unions in general, but a good friend of mine, one who was in the Majority Union, went from having a job to not having a job along with thousands of other people, because a small few decided to share your viewpoint.

        Like I said, the firm that ran them for the past however many years should be investigated, I think what they did was criminal, but as my good friend who went from Salary, health insurance, and 401K to delivering pizza says ” I’d rather the pay cut than losing my job “.

      • jarathen - Mar 21, 2013 at 10:47 AM

        And that’s what sucks. It’s either taking a treading water at best wage or finding a new job because of corporate mismanagement that no one has to answer for. It’s madness.

      • historiophiliac - Mar 21, 2013 at 10:56 AM

        That’s what they count on: that you’re willing to become the working poor. If you don’t say no, they will continue to squeeze. I don’t know how your friend’s family can make it with cuts like that. Most likely, a majority of those employees would’ve had to get second jobs and maybe try to qualify for public assistance — when before, they were middle class and had time for their families. I don’t know how he could make much use of a 401K (and I sure as hell wouldn’t want stock options in the company) if he was making in the 20’s with a family. The benefit of a layoff like that is that those employees can draw unemployment and qualify for retraining. That’s what I want my tax dollars to go for — not freaking drone strikes.

      • heyblueyoustink - Mar 21, 2013 at 11:06 AM

        He does what he has to, I respect him for it, Historio, in fact he views it as an opportunity to look into a more “in demand” field training/schooling.

        And as far as those drones go, you’re literally hitting close to home, not only in the idea that someone could put on a White House Memo ” OK to use on American Citizens without Judicial approval” and the fact that their putting a new drone command center practically in my back yard while trying to sell to us that there won’t be any drones there.

        2+2= what the hell are we doing here.

      • historiophiliac - Mar 21, 2013 at 11:18 AM

        Well, if it makes you feel better, those drones may be made in the USA. Our governor is trying to lure that business to the Frying Pan. (Yeah, we’re a test ground.)

    • sportsdrenched - Mar 21, 2013 at 10:48 AM

      The “take over specialists” propped up Hostess after their first Bankrupcy in the mid-aughts. There is lots of blame to go around at Hostess. From the management to the unions. In 5 years, if not sooner, it will be studied in MBA classes on what not to do. Along with Kodak.

      • heyblueyoustink - Mar 21, 2013 at 11:43 AM

        Agreed, that’s really the point I was trying to get across. I believe they were on their way out of business or sold off either way.

        But the excuse, or catalyst, for the giant layoff, was indeed the smallest of the Unions holding things up.

  2. chill1184 - Mar 21, 2013 at 9:01 AM

    I hope the employees that this affects realize that they should move their retirement savings into something that they control

    • Detroit Michael - Mar 21, 2013 at 9:52 AM

      Without knowing the details of MLB’s new retirement design, in general federal tax law will prohibit active employees from transferring (technically a distribution and rollover transaction) money from the employer-sponsored plan to their own IRA until the employee has a distributable event such as termination of employment or attainment of age 59½. What you are advocating generally is not allowed. (I won’t get into whether it’s a good idea.)

    • sportsdrenched - Mar 21, 2013 at 10:34 AM

      You’re confusing pensions with 401K’s (and similar tax sheltered retirement savings plans). Pensions are defined and entirely contributed to, and controlled by the employer. It’s compensation on top of the salary and other benefits.

      401K’s you can have some control over the assets that are placed in it, but generally there are some perameters set fourth by whover manages the 401K program.

      If you want total control you need to not contribute to the 401K, and go with a tax sheltered avenue outside your company.

      As to this topic in general. Yes, lying is bad. So is jerking with retirements. If you’ve told employees that something will be there and then take it away, that’s bush league. However, I have no problem with them not vesting new hires in a pension.

  3. alexo0 - Mar 21, 2013 at 9:01 AM

    In other words, Robert Manfred is an effin liar.

  4. nfieldr - Mar 21, 2013 at 2:31 PM

    alexo, you beat me to it. With this story and with the R. Braun Biogenesis story, it appears that Manfred is the MLB designated liar

    • Francisco (FC) - Mar 21, 2013 at 7:26 PM

      DL? No wait, that acronym is taken. DF, Designated Fibber.

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