UPDATED: Tyler baseball refs vote to go on strike

By Maya Golden

KLTV 7 Sports learned late Wednedsday night that baseball referrees of the Tyler Chapter of the Texas Assocation of Sports Officials have voted to go on strike. A strike means the chapter will not referree any baseball games for schools associated with the UIL. TAPPS schools and private schools such as Brook Hill, T.K. Gorman, Grace and All Saints would still be served.

The decision to strike first began when the UIL sent out a mandate requiring the Tyler Chapter of the TASO cut their $75 flat rate charge per game to $45 per game, and add mileage costs and a per diem. A source told KLTV the original rate was approved by all East Texas superintendents and had worked for some time.

The TASO is asking the UIL lift the mandate and restore the original $75 charge.

A source told KLTV 7 Sports, ''The UIL says the problem is that what works in East Texas does not work in West Texas. We want there to be at least two options state-wide for what we charge."

Other chapters across the state are expected to follow Tyler's lead. The Tyler TASO chapter notified the UIL of their decision to strike overnight.

On Saturday, the UIL will be present during the general session of a state-wide officials meeting in Houston. The issue could be resolved at that time or other chapters will respond by going on strike.

The start of the high school baseball season is about three weeks away. When asked what districts would have to do if the referrees remained on strike, our source replied, "Coaches may have to referree their own games."

Tyler TASO of Baseball Umpires chapter president Dwight Thomas released this statement to KLTV 7 Sports:

The Tyler Chapter of Baseball Umpires understands the importance and impact of the decision we have made in reference to our dispute with the UIL's pay scale for umpires.  The flat fee pay scale that we developed four years ago was agreed upon between our chapter and the schools that we serviced during that time period.  In the fall of 2008 the UIL decided they would enforce a mandatory pay scale, which they titled 1204, that removes local TASO chapter's ability to negotiate fair contracts with the schools they service.

Our chapter met last night (January 14, 2009) to discuss the conflict and possible resolutions.  It was the consensus of the chapter that if we "bow" to the pressure of the UIL at this time, these types of bullying tactics will continue in the future.  At this time we have, as a chapter, decided to stand our ground on this issue and service our schools with the contracts (flat pay scale) that we sent to them in the fall.  I need to also add that our school districts have already signed and agreed to this contract. 

The state TASO meeting will be held in Houston this weekend and the UIL is supposed to attend one of the sessions.  At that time I am hopeful a resolution can be made between the TASO and the UIL on this matter.

KLTV 7 Sports spoke with a UIL representative, directing the station to the following press release:

The following is in reference to ongoing concerns regarding the fee paid to baseball
umpires by UIL member schools.

Since October 2007, the UIL Legislative Council has revised the TASO officials' pay scale for every sport in the customary manner.

The Council approved a flat fee scale for Soccer and Baseball and gave the other divisions of TASO
officials the five-dollar across the board raise they requested.  Additionally, meal and mileage
reimbursement was modified as TASO requested.

The flat fee for baseball approved by the Legislative Council ensured that no official would leave their
home to call a baseball game for less than sixty dollars ($60) for one game and one hundred dollars ($100)  for two games. The fee scale also included a sliding scale for distance, which collectively, represented an  increase in fees for baseball officials.

Subsequently at the Legislative Council meeting two months later, representatives from TASO and the  baseball division proposed that the prior revision to the pay scale be modified again to be based on gate  receipts and have the five-dollar increase that was provided to the other divisions of TASO.  The  Legislative Council approved this proposal in January 2008.

There is no negotiation allowed in the UIL Constitution and Contest Rules regarding officials' pay.

Schools that pay more than the allowed fee for officials will be considered in violation of UIL rules and  subject to sanctions as outlined in sections 27 and 29 of the UIL Constitution and Contest Rules.

Should TASO chapters refuse to schedule and/or work baseball games for schools who are not allowed to  pay fees in excess of the allowed amount, schools will be given permission to secure and utilize non TASO  officials for any and all games.

UIL intends to continue to work with and communicate with all stakeholder organizations, including
schools and officials associations.