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'Strike 1' about to echo in empty ballparks

As the Monitor went to press, a baseball players' strike threatened to turn major league ballparks into ghost towns, beginning this weekend. Though the game's midseason walkout has loomed as a strong possibility for some time, a judge's decision brought the whole labor-management dispute to a head.

US District Court Judge Henry Werker dismissed a petition by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which sought an injunction delaying the owners' new compensation plan until next season.

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Under an agreement reached last week, the players, whose original strike deadline was May 29, must now go on strike almost immediately or relinquish their right to do so.

The Major League Baseball Players Association succeeded in getting the original deadline extended when the owners refused to open their books. The NLRB sided with the players' contention that the free-agency issue could not be adequately sorted out without examining the owners' financial records.

The players argue that the owners have not bargained in good faith by keeping their books closed. Judge Werker, however, indicated the NLRB failed to show that the owners raised the issue at the bargaining table of their abi lity to pay higher salaries caused by free agency.

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