U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh said Monday that he’s ready to step up to the plate and help end Major League Baseball’s two-month old lockout.
Walsh, the former Boston mayor and longtime Red Sox fan, said he had spoken with representatives of the owners and the Major League Baseball Players Association about the ongoing negotiations and that he encouraged both sides “to continue engagement.”
“I have spoken to both the MLBPA and MLB about the ongoing contract negotiations and encourage both sides to continue engagement,” Walsh said in a statement, first reported by Politico. “Like any contract negotiation in any industry, I stand ready to help facilitate productive conversations that result in the best outcome for workers and employers.”
MLB and the Players Association declined to comment Monday on Walsh’s offer.
MLB owners locked out the players on Dec. 2 after the collective bargaining agreement with the players union expired. Negotiations over a new pact are stalled just days before pitchers and catchers were scheduled to report for spring training. On Friday, the players union rejected a request by the owners for federal mediation and asked that negotiations resume.
It’s not unprecedented for labor secretaries to get involved in major union disputes.
In 2015, Labor Secretary Perez Tom Perez met with officials from shipping companies and a union representing dockworkers during a 2015 strike at West Coast ports. Labor Secretary Alexis Herman did the same with both sides in a strike by United Parcel Service drivers in 1997.
And Labor Secretary Robert Reich, along with President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore convened a White House meeting between baseball owners and players union representatives during the 1994-95 strike, the league’s last and most significant work stoppage.
The owners and players remain far apart on terms for a deal. Owners meet from Tuesday to Thursday in Orlando, Florida, and union staff will meet with players in Arizona and then Florida this week.
Players blame owners for instituting the lockout. Commissioner Rob Manfred has said that MLB thinks the timing of a lockout that starts during the offseason is more beneficial to clubs than a late-season strike, such as the August walkout in 1994.
Teams cut off access to club medical staff and facilities when the lockout started. The union has arranged for training facilities for players.