MLB will recognize minor league players’ unionization efforts

MLB announced on Friday that it will voluntarily recognize minor league players’ attempts to unionize in partnership with the Major League Baseball Players Association.

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Major League Baseball will recognize Minor League Baseball players who wish to join its union. (Fort Drum & 10th Mountain Division (LI), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Jason Alpert-Wisnia, Staff Writer

On Friday Sept. 9, Major League Baseball announced that it would voluntarily recognize minor league players’ attempts to unionize under the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA). The move came just three days after the MLBPA sent out a voluntary letter requesting that MLB recognize it as the minor leaguers’ collective bargaining representative.

In late August, the MLBPA sent out union authorization cards to all minor leaguers, and in a short time, the MLBPA received what they described as a significant majority of them back and signed. This came as the MLBPA joined the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), the largest U.S. federation of workers and unions, aligning the group with the greater labor movement. Since MLB recognized MLBPA’s voluntary letter, the minor leaguers do not need to appear before the National Labor Relations Board and hold an election a process which could have stalled their efforts to unionize.

Minor leaguers receiving low pay and experiencing poor living conditions have gained national attention over the last few years. Some minor leaguers began to publicly speak out about how the situation was affecting their playing ability as well as their mental health and well-being in some cases leading to early retirement. Despite the MLB raising pay for minor leaguers in 2021 and requiring teams to furnish living spaces for athletes in 2022, the majority of players were still being paid between $4,800 and $14,700 annually, which is below the federal minimum wage. Meanwhile, MLB players are making a minimum of $700,000, up from the $570,500 minimum wage in 2021 in large part thanks to their collective bargaining agreement.

The pay gap between the major and minor leagues has been codified into federal law through the Save America’s Pastime Act, passed in 2018, which exempted minor league baseball players from the requirement of being paid federal minimum wage and guaranteed overtime pay protections. This past July, MLB settled a class-action lawsuit filed by former minor leaguers in 2014, paying out $185 million to the players over violations of federal minimum wage and overtime pay protections exactly what the Save America’s Pastime Act was introduced to safeguard them from.

While there are still some moving parts in play to finalize their unionization, it looks like after 100 years, minor leaguers will finally be able to bring some power to the MLB negotiation table, as both parties hope to reach an agreement this week.

Contact Jason Alpert-Wisnia at [email protected]