Major League Baseball Players Association Joins AFL-CIO

The Major League Baseball Players Association joined the AFL-CIO on Wednesday, strengthening its ties with the broader labor movement as it works to significantly expand its membership by organizing minor league players .

MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark announced the affiliation during a National Press Club question-and-answer session in Washington on Wednesday morning with AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler. The MLBPA will join unions representing soccer and male and female soccer players on the AFL-CIO Sports Council, which has 58 unions within its federation.

Swift efforts to organize continued Tuesday when the union asked MLB to voluntarily recognize the MLBPA as the bargaining agent for minor league players after more than half returned union authorization cards. If MLB does not voluntarily recognize, players can apply to the National Labor Relations Board and be recognized if more than 50% of the players who vote in an election choose to unionize.

“Strengthening our fraternity of players by uniting the minor leaguers under our umbrella and joining the AFL-CIO – together we will navigate this chaos,” Clark said. “Together we are going to work through this in a way that is going to be a further reminder of strength and unity and the value that comes with focus and purpose – something the labor movement has always been committed to. .”

The MLBPA, Clark said, is “encouraged, at least initially, by some of the dialogue we’ve had” with MLB. The formal organizing effort began 11 days ago with the distribution of union authorization cards, but “the commitment [with players] was done over several years,” Clark said.

“Minor league players are the backbone of our industry,” Clark said. “It’s important that they have a voice at the table. It’s important that they have the opportunity to voice their concerns about pay equity and working conditions.”

The focus on the treatment of minor league players has increased in recent years, with players becoming increasingly outspoken about annual wages below the poverty line, among other issues.

When asked how players – almost all of whom are only paid in season between $400 and $700 a week before taxes – would pay union dues, Clark said: “As minimal as it may be, if at all at all, is going to reflect the interest of the players.”

Currently, the MLBPA includes all 1,200 players on the 40-player rosters of major league teams. By expanding its base to include all members of organizations playing nationally, the group could add more than 5,000 players.

“It wasn’t about selling it to them,” Clark said. “There was simply an acknowledgment of the challenges they faced. And the remedy is organization.”

Andrew B. Reiter