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Commentary: Building a cycling union, straight from Miller’s mouth

  • By Mark Johnson
  • Published Aug. 31, 2012
  • Updated Dec. 25, 2012 at 4:53 PM EDT
Marvin Miller was largely responsible for building the baseball players' union and his efforts provide guidelines for cycling's professionals. AP Photo

Motivated by results

When discussing the organization of baseball players and the ensuing baseball business model revolution as an analog for pro cycling, Miller brings up a telling point: athletes are profoundly motivated by results. Seeing the tangible results of the Topps standoff and subsequent negotiations, the players became more convinced of the efficacy of organization. “They could see the results,” Miller recollects. “And results are important.”

In 1965, baseball, like pro cycling today, stumbled along with a lopsided business structure that benefited organizers but not performers. And in 1965, both the baseball team owners and the league’s commissioner cried that changing it would end the sport for good.

“I’m telling you, it came about rapidly,” Miller says of the reforms that took place once the players showed some muscle. “Before I’d been there six months.”

If today’s pro riders asked Miller to help them organize, how would he start? By repeating what he did with baseball players, he says.

“We got to have some understanding of how [the business] works and then we got to have unity in the ranks and we’ve got to be determined. And at times we have to be willing to make temporary sacrifices because the gains to be made are tremendous,” he says. “That’s where you begin.”

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Mark Johnson

Mark Johnson

Writer-photographer Mark Johnson's work has been published in titles including VeloNews in the United States, Cycling Weekly in the UK, Vélo in France, and Ride Cycling Review in Australia as well as general-interest publications including The Wall Street Journal and the San Diego Union-Tribune. His book on the Garmin pro team, Argyle Armada, was published by VeloPress in 2012. A Cat. 2 road cyclist, Mark has bicycled across the United States twice and completed an Ironman triathlon. He graduated from UC San Diego and has a Ph.D. in English literature from Boston University. His other passion is surfing, which he does frequently from his home in Del Mar, California. Follow him on Twitter @ironstringmark.

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