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The Major League Baseball Players Association, after decades of opposition, is trying to unite the minor leaguers.
The players’ association said Monday it is circulating union authorization cards among players with minor league contracts to form a separate bargaining unit from the major leaguers.
While the median major league salary is above $4 million, players on minor league contracts earn only $400 per week during the six-month season.
“The working conditions of these players were downright insulting,” union leader Tony Clark wrote in a letter to players’ agents on Sunday.
Poverty wages, oppressive reserve rules, discipline without due process, ever-increasing off-season obligations, appropriation of intellectual property, subpar attention to player health and safety, and a chronic lack of respect for minor leaguers as a whole (to name a few). to name a few) ) – these cancers in our game exist because minor league players have never sat at the negotiating table. It is time for that to change.’
MLB Players Association Leader Tony Clark Will Invite Minor Leaguers To Their Union
An example of a union representation card distributed to minor league players
The union executive unanimously approved the minor league initiative on Friday.
Clark was not available to answer questions, spokesman Chris Dahl said.
Signed cards of 30% of the estimated 5,000 to 6,000 underage players in the bargaining unit would allow the union to petition the National Labor Relations Board for a union authorization election. MLB could also voluntarily recognize the union representing the bargaining unit, a process that can typically occur when a majority of the unit signs cards.
The staff of Advocates for Minor Leaguers, which was founded two years ago, will retire and go to work for the MLBPA. The union gave the minor league group $50,000 last November.
“This generation of minor league players has shown an unprecedented ability to address workplace issues with a collective voice,” Harry Marino, the executive director of Advocates for Minor Leaguers, said in a statement.
“Joining the most powerful union in professional sport ensures that this voice is heard where it matters most — at the negotiating table.”
Minor League players earn some of the lowest wages in professional sports, just $400 a week
Players with major league contracts, of which there are about 1,200, are represented by the union, which has also negotiated terms for those who have options in the minor leagues since the 1981 strike.
MLB increased the weekly minimum salary for minor leaguers in 2021 to $400 at the rookie and short-season levels, $500 at Class A, $600 at Double-A and $700 at Triple-A. For players on option, the minimum is $57,200 per season for a first big league contract and $114,100 for subsequent big league contracts.
In addition, this year, MLB began requiring teams to provide housing for most minor leaguers.
Spurred on by the minor league advocacy group, leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee said last month they had scheduled a hearing on the sport’s antitrust exemption.
Unionization could limit the minor leaguers’ ability in future lawsuits. The Supreme Court ruled in the Brown v. Pro Football Inc. case. 1996 that union sectors are exempt from antitrust challenges.
If MiLB players choose to unite, they could be restricted in future lawsuits against MLB
The big league union has long refused to represent lower-tier players, although the employment contract specifies terms for the amateur contract and signing bonuses for amateur players. There were 128 draft picks this year who agreed to sign bonuses of $500,000 and above, including 82 for at least $1 million.
The players’ association negotiated its first collective bargaining agreement in 1966 and has experienced nine work stoppages, the last 99 days of which has been locked out, delaying the start of this season.
Major League Baseball and minor leaguer attorneys this year agreed to a $185 million settlement in an 8-year-old federal lawsuit for alleged violations of minimum wage laws. An early estimate is that perhaps 23,000 players could split about $120 million on an average payout of $5,000 to $5,500, and their attorneys will split $55.5 million.
U.S. Chief Justice Joseph C. Spero in San Francisco granted preliminary approval to the settlement Friday and scheduled a fairness hearing on Feb. 17 pending possible final approval.
MiLB teams are still recovering from the pandemic, after the 2020 season was completely canceled