Major League Baseball might soon score a big win in its ongoing efforts to avoid paying minor-leaguers at a reasonable rate.
Later this week, Congress is expected to vote on a new $1.3 trillion spending package to keep the government up and running. Tucked away on page 1,967 of the 2,232-page document is the "Save America's Pastime Act," which would allow major-league clubs to continue paying their minor-league players below minimum wage.
Here is the page in question:
The continued underpayment of minor league baseball players is nearly law. On Page 1,967 of the new omnibus bill is an amendment that exempts minor league players from federal labor law. If Congress passes the bill by Friday, it's official. The language: https://t.co/oNXzB8iud4 pic.twitter.com/102mGFD3Mj— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) March 22, 2018
For years MLB has been lobbying lawmakers for such a provision, allowing them to continue paying minor-leaguers peanuts. They argue baseball players are seasonal workers -- similar to extra cashiers at department stores around the holidays -- not subject to minimum wage laws, and also that tracking hours and overtime would be impossible.
Minor-leaguers, most of whom did not receive a big signing bonus as an amateur, make as little as $1,150 a month in the minors. A Triple-A player on the 40-man roster with no MLB time could pull down slightly more than $40,000 in a season. That's about as good as it gets for players with no big-league time.
Minor-league players are paid by their MLB parent club, not their minor-league team. MLB contends that, if forced to pay minor-leaguers minimum wage, they would have to ask the minor-league teams to contribute to salaries, which could put them out of business. You would think that MLB teams would want to invest in the well-being of their prospects, but apparently not.
Keep in mind that, at any given moment during the season, there are about 4,500 players on minor-league rosters. Paying each of them an extra $300 per month would equal another $8.1 million total for the season. That's about one-third of what the Atlanta Braves will pay Adrian Gonzalez to play for the New York Mets this season.
Lawsuits attempting to increase minor-league salaries have generally gone nowhere and the MLB Players Association has been no help. Minor-leaguers not on 40-man rosters -- the vast majority -- are not union members, so the MLBPA mostly ignores them during collective bargaining talks. Even the name, the "Save America's Pastime Act," is gross.
Yes, baseball players have a really cool job and they're lucky to play a game for a living. That doesn't mean they don't deserve to be fairly compensated. Lots of people love their jobs. They shouldn't take a smaller salary just because though. This is nothing more than a blatant cash grab by MLB's owners, and it stands a good chance to become law later this week.