- NEW YORK (AP) The executive board of the Major League Baseball Players Association rejected a proposed 60-game schedule by a 33-5 vote, daring Commissioner Rob Manfred to give a unilateral order for the regular season's start and provoke what figures to be lengthy and costly litigation over the impact of the coronavirus.
The union's vote was confirmed by a person familiar with the meeting who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the balloting was not made public.
The union said in a statement that the "board reaffirmed the players' eagerness to return to work as soon and as safely as possible."
"To that end we anticipate finalizing a comprehensive set of health and safety protocols with Major League Baseball in the coming days, and we await word from the league on the resumption of spring training camps and a proposed 2020 schedule," the union said.
Manfred was expected to take the next step later Monday as baseball descends into the type of labor strife that led to eight work stoppages from 1972-95.
With the collapse of a negotiated deal, playoffs are set to remain at 10 teams rather than expand to 16, and the proposed expansion of the designated hitter to games involving NL teams would be off. Also falling through for now is a planned experiment that would have had a runner start each extra inning on second base.
Spring training was suspended on March 12, two weeks ahead of scheduled openers, and the sides have reverted to the familiar financial infighting that fractured the sport in the past. An initial deal March 26 called for players to receive prorated salaries, but that agreement did not require MLB to play in empty ballparks.
Players refused to alter from their insistence on prorated salaries, and MLB finally agreed last week during a meeting between Manfred and union head Tony Clark. But the sides remained about $275 million apart after weeks of talks. MLB offered 60 games and $1.48 billion from salaries that originally totaled $4 billion, plus a $25 million postseason players' pool. The union wanted 70 games and $1.73 billion plus a $50 million pool.
Players are expected to file a grievance, claiming MLB violated a provision in the March agreement requiring both sides to "work in good faith to as soon as is practicable commence play, and complete the fullest 2020 championship season and postseason that is economically feasible" consistent with several provisions. MLB is expected to file a grievance accusing the union of negotiating in bad faith.
All the while, the coronavirus upended plans of many teams to resume training at their Florida facilities due to a rise in virus cases in the state. Twenty-nine teams intend to work out in their regular-season ballparks, with Toronto awaiting additional talks with the Canadian federal and Ontario provincial governments.
More bickering and turmoil lies ahead. Baseball's collective bargaining agreement expires on Dec. 1, 2021, and the virus damaged the already deteriorated relationship and became just another of the financial issues that point toward a spring training lockout ahead of the 2022 season.
This dispute has played out following five straight years of relatively flat salaries, a failed grievance alleging the Chicago Cubs manipulated the service time of Kris Bryant to delay the free agency of the star third baseman and accusations teams failed to use revenue sharing money properly, part of the union's claim teams are "tanking."
MLB says clubs have the right to determine when prospects are ready for the majors and also are free to lower payrolls for rebuilding.
Further, the failed negotiations sparked criticism of Clark and chief negotiator Bruce Meyer by agents, though there is no evidence yet that the displeasure has extended to players.
Until now, the latest openers have been was May 1 during five seasons in the 1800s, according to Elias Sports, but since 1900 it had been April 25 following the end of the 1994-95 strike. Players interrupted the 1981 season with a strike that started June 12, and the second half of a split season started on Aug. 10.
CRANDON - The Forest County Humane Society works around the clock to help animals find forever homes. But taking care of those animals during their stay doesn't just take a lot of time; it takes a lot of money, too.
The shelter got a helping hand, thanks to a $35,000 grant from the ASPCA. It's part of an initiative to help brick-and-mortar shelters improve their animals' quality of life.
Shelter director Angie Schaefer says that money paid for 20 new cat-condos, fencing for two new dog yards, and several other much-needed supplies.
"We're small, we're in a small community, so to raise that kind of money to get these items would have been quite a task. For them to step in and do that for us is amazing," said Schaefer.
Schaefer said the extra yards will allow dogs to spend more time outside and socialize with each other.
If you're interested in volunteering or donating to the humane society, visit its website for more information.
NORTHWOODS - Wisconsin's lakes have a lot to offer their visitors. But some, like aquatic invasive species, are unwelcome due to the damage they can cause to native ecosystems.
There's a growing effort to prevent, contain, and control the spread of these aquatic invasive species, especially this holiday weekend. As part of the Clean Boats, Clean Waters program, volunteers will be stationed across popular boat landings, doing inspections and educating boaters on how to properly clean their boats.
"Any type of holiday weekend, especially the fourth of July when there's a lot more boat traffic, there's an emphasis on getting more awareness out there," said DNR recreation warden Justin Bender.
Aside from volunteers, most boat landings also have information posted on aquatic invasive species and the laws regarding boat cleaning. Citations for not properly cleaning your boats typically run $200-300.
- The U.S. headed into the Fourth of July weekend with many parades and fireworks displays canceled, beaches and bars closed, and health authorities warning that this will be a crucial test of Americans' self-control that could determine the trajectory of the surging coronavirus outbreak.
With confirmed cases climbing in 40 states, governors and local officials have ordered the wearing of masks in public, and families were urged to celebrate their independence at home. Even then, they were told to keep their backyard cookouts small.
MADISON, WI - Cigarette smoking rates have dropped since Wisconsin's Smoke-Free Indoor Air Law went into effect 10 years ago.
In 2008, before the law passed, 20% of Wisconsin adults smoked cigarettes. By 2018, the rate had dropped to 16%. High school youth cigarette smoking rates dropped from nearly 21% in 2008 to nearly 5% in 2018.
State cigarette taxes were also increased during this time period and contribute to this reduction.
"Wisconsin is breathing easier today thanks to this law, but we know there are many people in our state who still smoke," said DHS Secretary-Designee Andrea Palm. "We urge smokers to take advantage of the programs available to help them to quit, especially now during the COVID-19 pandemic, as people who smoke are believed to be more susceptible to the virus, and can become severely ill with it."
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