MLB to Pay $185M in Settlement with Minor League Players over Wage Violations

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIJuly 15, 2022

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 12: The MLB logo in the on deck circle during the game between the Washington Nationals and the Milwaukee Brewers at Nationals Park on June 12, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)
G Fiume/Getty Images

Major League Baseball has agreed to pay $185 million as part of the settlement reached in the Senne v. MLB class-action lawsuit, ESPN's Jeff Passan reported Friday.

Jeff Passan @JeffPassan

Clarifying: As part of the settlement in Senne v. MLB, Major League Baseball will issue a memo that allows teams to pay minor league players during spring training, extended spring training and instructional leagues in Florida and Arizona. They had been blocked from doing so.

Passan added that "thousands" of minor league players dating back to 2009 will be eligible to join the class. Players will see more than $120 million of the $185 million agreed upon in the settlement, according to Passan.

The Athletic's Evan Drellich reported on May 10 that the two sides reached a settlement agreement as a June 1 trial date soon approached.

Alex Rahmanan of Law in Sport explained the basis for the suit's filing in a Sept. 2021 article:

"Thousands of current and former minor leaguers are suing MLB and all 30 MLB clubs for allegedly failing to pay them a fair wage, overtime pay, and compensation for other required activities," Rahmanan wrote in part.

"In this class action suit, the minor leaguers accuse MLB and the clubs of violating the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and other state wage and hour laws, and are seeking damages in the form of years of backpay."

The United States Supreme Court previously denied MLB's request to dismiss the lawsuit in 2020.

Major League Baseball has come under fire in recent years due to a combination of long-standing pay and working condition concerns. Many minor leaguers went on the record about a litany of problems.

Emily Waldon of The Athletic did an exhaustive breakdown of minor leaguers' issues in March 2019, with a host of players speaking about the grind. However, many were off-the-record for fear of being blackballed.

"You talk about this, you’re canned," a High-A ball player on an AL West team said to The Athletic.

"Nobody wants to have you in your organization anymore. You can't talk about it. If you come up in arms about fair wage or just being able to put food on the table for yourself, you'll get released. I know 100 guys that would wanna talk to you about this, but they won't."

Many current and ex-minor leaguers have provided their takes on the experience.

"People don't understand the mental strain that comes along with that—that you don't know how much money you're going to have at the end of each month and not knowing how you're going to make ends meet," ex-Los Angeles Angels minor leaguer Shane Kelso told ESPN's Joon Lee in Sept. 2021.

"I was a late-rounder. I didn't sign for a lot of money. The vast majority of players are in my position."

Brittany Ghiroli of The Athletic also did a deep dive on the rampant problems in the minor leagues.

"I definitely know of some players who have spent nights in their car where the dates didn't line up with their road trip and AirBnbs," a Pirates' minor leaguer told Ghiroli.

"When you think about it, it’s crazy. You are a foul tip away from getting called up (in Triple-A)."

Some good news emerged in Nov. 2021 after MLB owners unanimously agreed to provide housing for approximately 90 percent of minor league players, per Steve Gardner of USA Today.

As noted by Drellich and Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic, a federal magistrate judge ruled against MLB in March, ruling that minor leaguers are MLB employees throughout the year and were owed damages.

Minor leaguers did see a bump in pay last year, with the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com) providing the details.

"Players at rookie and short-season levels will see their minimum weekly pay raise from $290 to $400, and players at Class A will go from $290 to $500. Double-A will jump from $350 to $600 and Triple-A from $502 to $700."

However, the non-profit More Than Baseball group did a three-year study, released to The Athletic, that advocated for a minimum $35,000 salary that would "bring players above the federal poverty line and put them in line with living wage standards."

At any rate, Friday marks a massive win for minor leaguers, and Advocates for Minor Leaguers released a statement through Twitter on the matter:

Advocates for Minor Leaguers @MiLBAdvocates

Our statement on today’s landmark settlement in Senne v. MLB: <a href="https://t.co/qpLxM9aBGi">pic.twitter.com/qpLxM9aBGi</a>

Per Passan, the advocacy group is speaking with the Senate Judiciary Committee on MLB's antitrust exemption.