MLB Players Association takes ‘historic’ step toward unionizing minor league baseball players

The MLB Players Association took a step toward organizing minor league baseball players Sunday night, sending minor leaguers a clearance card allowing them to vote in an election that could make them members of the MLBPA. ESPN broke the news for the first time. More than 5,000 minor league players are under contract with MLB teams during the season.

In a press release, the MLBPA called it a “historic effort” that “has received overwhelming support from the MLBPA Board of Directors.” Six active players currently sit on the union’s board of directors: Zack Britton, Jason Castro, Gerrit Cole, Francisco Lindor, James Paxton and Marcus Semien. The MLBPA released the following statement:

“Minor Leaguers represent the future of our game and deserve salaries and working conditions that befit the elite athletes who entertain millions of baseball fans nationwide,” the MLBPA executive director said. , Tony Clark. “They are an important part of our fraternity and we want to help them achieve their goals on and off the pitch.”

The campaign is supported by Advocates for Minor Leaguers, which has served as a voice and resource for players since 2020, bringing increased attention to the substandard working conditions that exist in the minor leagues. Every member of the Advocates for Minor Leaguers staff has resigned to take on a new role within the MLBPA.

“This generation of minor league players has demonstrated an unprecedented ability to address workplace issues with a collective voice,” said Harry Marino, outgoing executive director of Advocates for Minor Leaguers. “Joining the most powerful union in professional sports ensures that this voice is heard where it matters most – at the bargaining table.”

“This organizing drive is an investment in the future of our game and our gaming fraternity,” Clark said.

In order for the MLBPA to represent the minor leaguers in labor negotiations, 30% of minor league players would need to sign the clearance card. That would then trigger a formal election, and a majority vote would force MLB to recognize the union under National Labor Relations Board laws. MLB and MLBPA would then bargain collectively on behalf of the minor leaguers.

MLB has yet to comment on the MLBPA’s efforts to unionize minor league players.

The news comes soon after MLB agreed to pay $185 million to settle class action lawsuit filed by minor leaguers looking for salary for spring training, extended spring training and instruction league. Players are not paid during these periods. The lawsuit was originally filed in 2014.

Several years ago, MLB successfully lobbied Congress to pass the “Save the American Pastime“allowing teams to treat minor leaguers as seasonal workers and pay them below minimum wage. MLB raised minor league minimum wages two years ago, though they’re still not living wages. Here are the minimum salaries for the list of non-40 male players (i.e. non-MLBPA members):

  • Rookie Ball: $400 per week (previously $290)
  • Single-A: $500 per week (previously $290)
  • Double A: $600 per week (previously $350)
  • Triple-A: $700 per week (previously $502)

This season, MLB began providing housing for minor league players, so living conditions have improved, but minor league baseball players with less than 40 players are still unpaid, as well as NBA G-League players ($38,000 per season) or NFL practice. team players ($9,200 per week) or minor league hockey players ($51,000 per AHL season).

Earlier this summer, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred dismissed the assumption that minor leaguers aren’t getting a living wage.. Advocates for Minor Leaguers, a nonprofit working to improve conditions for minor league baseball players, called the claim “both callous and untrue.”

As part of their effort to organize minors, the MLBPA effectively absorbs minor leaguer advocates, with personnel taking on roles within the union.

“We are thrilled with this development and have no doubt that joining the MLBPA is the best outcome possible,” Advocated for Minor Leaguers said in a statement. according to The Athletic.

Three years ago, MLB decided to cut 40 minor league teams. The plan was accelerated — and ultimately successful — in the wake of the pandemic, which has left many minor league franchises in dire financial straits and in need of help. Reports say MLB is again looking to cut minors.

Leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee are currently studying the potential of removal of MLB’s antitrust exemption on minor leaguers. The antitrust exemption dates back to a 1922 Supreme Court decision.

Andrew B. Reiter