MLB prepared to voluntarily recognize minor league union

AP photo by Seth Wenig / Commissioner Rob Manfred speaks to reporters in June after an owners’ meeting at MLB headquarters in New York.

NEW YORK — Major League Baseball is ready to voluntarily accept the formation of a union by minor league players, a key step that will lead to collective bargaining and possibly a strike threat at the start of next season.

The MLB Players Association launched the unionization drive on Aug. 28 and told MLB on Tuesday it had obtained signed authorization cards from the approximately 5,500 players with minor league contracts. If MLB had declined to accept the union, the players' association's next step would have been to ask the National Labor Relations Board to conduct an authorization election.

"We, I believe, notified the MLBPA today that we're prepared to execute an agreement on voluntary recognition. I think they're working on the language as we speak," Rob Manfred, baseball's commissioner, said Friday during a news conference to announce on-field rules changes for next season.