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More than 50 percent of minor-league baseball players have signed authorization cards in support of unionization as part of the Major League Baseball Players' Association, the union announced Tuesday. The MLBPA sent the authorization cards to minor leaguers last month

"Minor league players have made it unmistakably clear they want the MLBPA to represent them and are ready to begin collective bargaining in order to positively affect the upcoming season," MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said in a statement.

Only 30 percent of minor leaguers need to sign the authorization card to trigger a formal vote for unionization. A majority vote would require MLB to recognize the union under National Labor Relations Board laws, though the MLBPA has first asked MLB to voluntarily recognize minor leaguers as unionized. The Athletic has the details:

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. MLB did not immediately return a request for comment from The Athletic on Tuesday.


More than 5,000 players would be a part of the new bargaining unit. Because the Dominican Summer League is based outside of the U.S., players in that league are not automatically a part of the unit, but the MLBPA told players it intends to try to bargain over their working conditions as well.

There is no deadline for MLB to voluntarily recognize the minor-league union and there is no firm timetable for when the process will move forward. MLB has not yet commented on the MLBPA's efforts to unionize minor leaguers.

Formal efforts to unionize the minor leagues come not long after MLB agreed to pay $185 million to settle a class action lawsuit filed by minor leaguers seeking pay for spring training, extended spring training, and instructional league. Players are not paid during those periods. The lawsuit was originally filed in 2014.

Earlier this summer MLB commissioner Rob Manfred rejected the premise that minor leaguers are not paid a livable wage. Advocates for Minor Leaguers, a nonprofit organization working to improve conditions for minor-league players that has since been absorbed by the MLBPA, called the assertion "both callous and false."

Leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee are currently looking into the potential of stripping MLB's antitrust exemption on minor leaguers. The antitrust exemption dates back to a 1922 Supreme Court ruling.