March 24, 2018

MLB Wants Receives The Right To Ignore Federal Labor Laws And Continue Underpaying Minor League Players

UPDATE (March 24, 1:45 PM): The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 was filed Wednesday night and passed by both the House and Senate just over 24 hours later, so you know everyone read all 2,322 pages very carefully and engaged in a vigorous debate about its contents. (The "Save America's Pastime Act" is on page 1967. (That's right ... paying minor leaguers a living wage would destroy professional baseball forever. Destroy!))


Mike DeBonis, Washington Post, March 18, 2018 (my emphasis):
A massive government spending bill that Congress is expected to consider this week could include a provision exempting Minor League Baseball players from federal labor laws, according to three congressional officials familiar with the talks.

The exemption would represent the culmination of more than two years of lobbying by Major League Baseball, which has sought to preempt a spate of lawsuits that have been filed by minor leaguers alleging they have been illegally underpaid.

The league has long claimed exemptions for seasonal employees and apprenticeships, allowing its clubs to pay players as little as $1,100 a month, well under the pay that would be dictated under federal minimum wage and overtime standards. But with those exemptions under legal challenge, Major League Baseball has paid lobbyists hundreds of thousands of dollars to write a specific exemption into the law. ...
Major League Baseball is a $10 billion/year industry - its revenues have increased in each the last 15 seasons and Commissioner Rob Manfred's goal is reaching $15 billion in the near future - and it has been working its ass off for years to be handed the right to ignore basic labour laws (which remain grossly inadequate for workers, but that's another story).

According to this extremely interesting post at Camden Depot, the Yankees pay roughly 0.33% of their annual revenue on minor league salaries. That low percentage is likely typically of all teams, as even the Rays pay only 0.86%. (A player in AAA earns about $12,000 a year. Someone in A ball earns as little as $1,100 per month; short-season players may be paid that for only three months out of the year.)

Two excellent comment on that post:

Jayne Hansen:
Other factors that minor leaguers have to deal with: paying dues to the clubby, paying for Uber/taxis if they don't have a car, finding a sponsor to help keep them in bats and gloves, etc., paying for high-quality nutritional supplements that won't result in a bad drug test and much more. Some teams will provide accommodations for the rookie leagues, but beyond that, they're on their own. Not every team will have host families or booster clubs that will take the guys shopping for the necessities. But the very fact that it's the minor league fans that are helping these guys survive rather than the team they play for is absurd.
You write, "Based on unpublished research, the typical minor league baseball player comes from a white, upper middle class home and by the age of thirty has half the earning potential and assets as a similar person from the same background that did not go into baseball."

Many of the white, upper middle-class players are able to pursue the dream because they are getting support from mom and dad. In other words, their family is sending them spending money, letting them drive their old car, helping them line up a decent job in the off-season, etc.

Players whose families don't have money - which would mean lower-middle and working-class players of any racial background, disproportionately black players - are less likely to choose minor-league baseball or to stick with it. If they are American citizens, then they almost certainly have better options. You could make more money and better provide for your family even in relatively low-prestige jobs like restaurant service, for example.

Immigrant players are a bit different calculus. You maybe don't have a better option as a poor kid from the Dominican Republic or Venezuela. So they're more like to struggle through the minors.

But basically, if baseball genuinely wanted to attract a more diverse set of players, they would pay better in the minor leagues.
While MLB's actions are disgusting and should infuriate every single fan of the game, the Players Association should also be heavily criticized for turning its backs on minor league players. The union could easily use its tremendous clout to greatly improve the lives of all minor leaguers. (Also, how many talented players who could have made the big leagues were forced to give up the game purely because of financial reasons?) Almost every single major leaguer spent time in the minors. Yet it would appear, however, that they have joined with the owners in not giving a shit.


PK said...

Thank you for covering this. It’s stories like this that will eventually make me turn my back on baseball, unfortunately.

allan said...

Grant Brissbee: Someone in Congress cares about minor leaguers getting too much money. That seems off.

"Because from here, it sure looks like a system designed specifically to benefit a tiny, tiny cabal of interests without any ethical component to it whatsoever. There appears to be no benefit to the general constituency. It looks like a small group of people advocating for a cause that roughly translates to, 'This could cost us money. We like keeping as much money as possible,' and somehow, that made it into a bill about how to finance the United States government."


allan said...

How Congress screwed over Minor League Baseball players, explained
By Whitney McIntosh (SB Nation)

Where did this provision come from?
What is the exact part of the bill you need to know about?
Why was this provision included in this spending bill?
What does it mean that this passed?
Why should you care?
Can't the MLBPA do something about this?


laura k said...

This is disgraceful but unsurprising from both MLB and Congress. But from the MLBPA it is fucking outrageous. Player reps should be standing up for their brothers in the minors.

This is the sports equivalent of something shameful we see in the union world all too often. The union is controlled by a small percentage of well-paid full-time workers who negotiate contracts that benefit only themselves. The rest of the part-time or casual staff can go to he'll. But keep those dues coming please.

Not all unions are like this by any means but I despise the ones that give us a bad rap.

MLBPA get off your wealthy butts and take care of minor league players by forcing MLB to do so.

laura k said...

Funny autocorrect there! Considering the way I feel about apostrophe abuse.