WASHINGTON -- Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Mike Weiner told a National Press Club audience that the enlightened collective bargaining approach that has emerged in baseball could be replicated with successful results in both private- and public-sector bargaining across the country.

Weiner described a bargaining relationship in baseball that has matured following more than 30 years of labor strife.

"In 2011, baseball demonstrated that collective bargaining can produce a progressive and productive agreement -- if each party respects both the power and the ideas of its counterpart," Weiner said on Wednesday.

Weiner noted that the contracts reached last fall were unprecedented in the range and scope of improvements and suggested that could only be accomplished between parties that share a mutual respect.

"We made agreements that were unimaginable in our past -- in revenue sharing, in health care, in drug testing, and, most notably, perhaps in our new 15-15 alignment and additional Wild Card team," he said. "That happened only because each side was prepared to recognize a good idea when it appeared, no matter who presented it, and no matter if that idea historically was associated with the other side. More than ever before, our bargaining was not just over how to resolve our differences, but how we could identify and further our common objectives."

Weiner credited Major League Baseball for "recognizing that the players are not just a force to be reckoned with, but that, in area after area, the players ... had good ideas about how to improve the game and the industry."

Noting that the economic downturn has brought heightened stress to labor relations across the country, Weiner suggested that genuine issues could be better addressed in a mutually respectful bargaining environment than by demonizing workers.

"Private-sector employers and employees in the U.S. face increased global competition. Public sector labor relations have been caught in the vice of budgetary crises," Weiner said. "In both areas, a handy response has been to attack workers' rights to organize and to bargain collectively -- to attempt to strip bargaining rights from public employees and to handicap private sector workers who seek to organize.

"That's unfair, in part, because our current economic difficulties were not caused by America's working men and women. It's just not true that municipal and state employees making $40,000 per year caused the present fiscal crisis."

Weiner reminded the audience members that labor laws in the U.S. have been designed to allow power struggles to play themselves out on a level playing field and that the right of workers has bargain collectively "has been seen as a natural component of our competitive economy.

"What is unnatural -- and counterproductive -- are the recent legislative efforts to strip workers of these rights. The economic health of our country will not be revitalized by depriving workers of their voice."

Disagreements remain a natural byproduct of the advesarial and often contentious collective bargaining process, Weiner said, but he added that baseball proved in their recent negotiations that those disagreements could be overcome with open-mindedness, creativity and respect.

"The real success of bargaining in baseball last year was not just that we made a deal without a fight, but that we made agreements in scope and content that should benefit players, owners, fans and all connected with the game, and for years to come."