MLB: MLBPA moves toward unionizing minor leaguers

Minor league baseball players have moved a giant step closer toward unionization.

The Major League Baseball Players Association sent out authorization cards Sunday night that will allow players in the farm systems to vote for an election that could make them part of the union.

“Minor Leaguers represent our game’s future and deserve wages and working conditions that befit elite athletes who entertain millions of baseball fans nationwide,” MLPBA executive director Tony Clark said in a news release on Monday. “They’re an important part of our fraternity and we want to help them achieve their goals both on and off the field.”

The statement said the move to unionize minor leaguers received “overwhelming support” at a meeting of the MLPBA’s Executive Board on Sunday night.

The campaign is supported by Advocates for Minor Leaguers, a voice and resource for players established in 2020 to shine a spotlight on the working conditions of those players.

All of the staff members for Advocates for Minor Leaguers resigned to take on new roles with the MLBPA, per the news release.

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

Added Clark, “This organizing campaign is an investment in the future of our game and our player fraternity.”

There was no immediate response from Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred, who has defended the sport’s treatment of minor leaguers.

“I kind of reject the premise of the question that minor league players are not paid a living wage,” Manfred said at the All-Star Game last month.

“I think that we’ve made real strides in the last few years in terms of what minor league players are paid, even putting to one side the signing bonuses that many of them have already received. They receive housing, which obviously is another form of compensation.”

MLB boosted the minimum salaries in the minors in 2021. Pay was increased from $290 to $500 per week in Class A, $350 to $600 in Double-A and from $502 to $700 in Triple-A. Players are only paid during the roughly five-month season.

Earlier this year, MLB agreed to pay minor leaguers $185 million to settle a federal lawsuit that alleged violations of minimum-wage laws. Plaintiffs attorneys estimated that up to 23,000 players would receive about $5,000 each in the settlement.

–Field Level Media

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