In August 2022, the MLP Players Association (MLBPA) began efforts to unionize Minor League Baseball (MiLB) for the first time following a petition in May signed by more than 1,000 Minor Leaguers demanding MLB pay them for their work during Spring Training.
Players received their cards for unionization on Aug. 28, and more than 5,500 returned them signed. By the middle of September, Minor League players officially joined the MLBPA after an arbitrator validated the union-authorization cards and MLB voluntarily recognized the union.
Following the unionization, the MLBPA agreed with MLB to begin negotiations on a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) for Minor Leaguers at the end of the 2022 season.
Now, the first Minor League CBA in history has been ratified after a 30-0 vote by MLB owners, and the deal provides raises to all professional players below the Major League level, according to Evan Drellich of The Athletic:
The deal — which would have sounded outlandish just a year ago, when minor leaguers didn’t have a union — provides raises to players and a slew of other improvements, including the creation of a formal grievance procedure with access to neutral arbitrators in most instances, union officials said.
Under the CBA, minimum annual salaries will be as follows:
At the complex league and rookie ball, $19,800, up from $4,800; Single A: $26,200, up from $11,000; High A: $27,300, up from $11,000; Double A: $30,250, up from $13,800; Triple A: $35,800, up from $17,500.
The victory for Minor League players is impossible to overstate as it will have a significant impact on the lives of thousands of athletes, especially ones who spend years in the Minors without reaching the Major League level.
In 2022, the majority of Minor Leaguers still made below the federal poverty line of $13,590 for a single person, according to More Than Baseball (MTB), a nonprofit organization supporting more than 3,000 Minor League players since 2019.
MiLB players received a pay raise during the 2021 season, but their salaries still ranged from $10,500 for Single-A players to $14,700 for Triple-A players despite it being a full-time job with overtime work.
For comparison, the minimum salary for the NBA G League is $35,000 while the NHL guarantees at least $52,000 for players in the AHL. Minor Leaguer baseball players also receive the smallest per diem while on the road with 50% less than what G-League players receive and more than 75% less than AHL players receive.
MLB developed a plan last November that would provide more than 90% of Minor League players with furnished housing accommodations at each Major League club’s expense for the 2022 season, but Advocates for Minor Leaguers determined the plan fell short of expectations and criticized the league for not consulting with players.
Previous labor disputes between MLB and MiLB
MLB has previously argued that MiLB players are seasonable employees, making them exempt from minimum wage laws. However, a federal ruling in March stated they are year-round employees and should be paid accordingly while ruling the league was responsible for $2 million in damages.
The league has also been involved with multiple lawsuits related to Minor League player treatment recently. In July, they settled for $185 million after three MiLB players filed a class action lawsuit against the league on Feb. 7, 2014, claiming violations of state and federal minimum wage laws.
Last year, a lawsuit was filed against MLB and commissioner Rob Manfred over the MLB’s antitrust exemption after they took control of Minor League teams, which resulted in contraction.
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