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MLBPA Says It Has Majority Support for Minor League Union, Needs MLB Recognition

Adam WellsSeptember 6, 2022

Alex Trautwig/MLB via Getty Images

Minor League Baseball players have crossed the majority threshold of votes needed to unionize.

Per The Athletic's Evan Drellich, the Major League Baseball Players Association has received signed union authorization cards from more than 50 percent of minor leaguers.

The MLBPA still needs to receive formal recognition from MLB and all 30 teams to become the official collective bargaining representative for minor leaguers, per Drellich:

"MLBPA deputy executive director Bruce Meyer made that request for voluntary recognition in a letter sent to deputy MLB commissioner Dan Halem on Tuesday morning. The Players Association sent over what's known as a card-check agreement, where the league would agree to voluntary recognition, contingent on independent verification of the cards. From here, the next move might belong to commissioner Rob Manfred and the owners, who have yet to publicly comment on the fast-moving unionization effort."

The MLBPA sent authorization cards to minor league players Aug. 28, giving them the right to vote in an election that would make them members of the Players Association.

MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark said in a statement after the cards were distributed: "Minor leaguers represent our game's future and deserve wages and working conditions that befit elite athletes who entertain millions of baseball fans nationwide."

Sentiment has been growing in recent years for MLB to take a more active approach toward providing better working conditions for minor leaguers.

In July, MLB agreed to pay $185 million as part of a settlement of a class-action lawsuit seeking compensation for minimum-wage and overtime violations by teams.

Per ESPN's Jeff Passan, the lawsuit was filed in 2014 by Miami Marlins minor leaguer Aaron Senne and two other retired minor league players.

"Thousands of other players will be eligible to receive part of the $120,197,300 due to players, with the rest going to attorney's fees and other costs," Passan wrote.

Chris Dennis, a former pitcher in the Colorado Rockies system, tweeted he only made $1,000 per month in the minors:

Chris Dennis @ChrisWDennis

I made $1k/month as a minor leaguer. At the field 9 hours a day, 30 days a month. That’s <$4/hr not counting travel time… don’t get me wrong, I was incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to play, but calling what we made a “livable wage” is laughable

Per the Associated Press, player salaries in the minors range from $400 per week in rookie ball to $700 per week at Triple-A. Players who are drafted or sign as international free agents will usually receive a signing bonus that doesn't count toward their salary in the minors.

Around the same time as the settlement, a Senate Judiciary Committee issued a letter to Advocates for Minor Leaguers questioning the legality of MLB's antitrust exemption and asking the organization for information about how it affected the lives of minor league players.

MLB has held an antitrust exemption since 1922. Since labor law presides ahead of antitrust law when a collective bargaining agreement exists between employees and employers, minor leaguers don't qualify because they aren't represented by a union.

According to Drellich, if minor leaguers form a union, any CBA they bargain with MLB would be separate from the agreement that exists between major league players and MLB.

More than 5,000 current players in the minors would be part of the union if it gets approved.

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