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The Major League Baseball Players Association (or MLBPA) is the union of professional major-league baseball players. Any individual on the 25-man or 40-man roster of an American League or National League team is eligible for membership. Players who were signed as replacement players during the 1994-1995 strike are ineligible.
The MLBPA was not the first attempt to unionize baseball players. Earlier attempts had included:
- Brotherhood of Professional Base Ball Players - 1885 (founded by John Montgomery Ward)
- Players' Protective Association - 1900
- Fraternity of Professional Baseball Players of America - 1912
- American Baseball Guild - 1946
The MLBPA was created in 1965. A year later, the fledgling union hired Marvin Miller from the United Steel Workers of America to head the organization, serving as Executive Director until 1983. Miller quickly found success in signing the players and negotiated the first collective bargaining agreement with the team owners in 1968. During Miller's tenure, base salaries, pension funds, licensing rights and revenues were brought to new levels, laying the groundwork that helped create what is widely considered one of the strongest unions in the country. The strength of the union was immeasurably increased by the creation of the modern free agent system in 1975.
Donald Fehr has served as the Executive Director of the MLBPA since 1986, shepherding it through the 1994 baseball strike and recent issues. As of 2005, Major League Baseball is the only major professional sports league in the U.S. that does not have a salary cap; the NHL, NBA and NFL all implement some sort of salary cap.
The MLBPA was initially opposed to random steroid testing, claiming it to be a violation of the privacy of players. However, after enormous negative publicity surrounding the alleged or actual involvement of several star players in the BALCO steroid scandal, the players dropped their opposition to a steroid testing program and developed a consensus that favored testing. Under pressure from US Congress which had threatened to pass a law if the MLB's drug policy was not strengthened, the baseball union agreed to a stricter policy that would include 50-game, 100-game, and lifetime suspensions.