The United States Supreme Court is allowing a class-action lawsuit to proceed from minor-league baseball players who allege they are being paid less than the minimum wage. Attorney and former minor-league baseball pitcher Garrett Broshuis broke the news on Twitter on Monday morning. Broshuis is leading the class-action against Major League Baseball for unlawful wages.
The Supreme Court denied MLB's request to take the case, meaning the case will proceed as a class-action lawsuit and return to the trial court soon. The SCOTUS justices offered no comment in rejecting MLB's appeal.
The lawsuit involves minor-league players in Arizona, California and Florida, according to the Associated Press. The group of minor-league players first sued MLB teams in February 2014, claiming that most earn less than $7,500 annually in violation of several laws, AP notes.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 Minor League Baseball season was canceled altogether, leaving players in limbo. And because minor-league players are bound by their Uniform Player Contract, they were not able to collect unemployment benefits while baseball was on hiatus.
During the COVID-19 shutdown and MLB/MLBPA 2020 season negotiations, most MLB teams committed to paying their minor leaguers through the end of the originally scheduled minor-league season. The Nationals and Athletics both reversed their decision to cut minor-league pay after backlash.
The issue of minor-league pay has been a rich source of controversy in recent years. In 2018, MLB successfully lobbied to pay minor leaguers less than the minimum wage thanks to the "Save America's Pastime Act," which was tucked into a much larger federal spending bill. MLB's argument was that minor leaguers were seasonal workers -- they're paid for just the five months of the minor-league season and not the remainder of the calendar year -- and thus shouldn't be protected by minimum-wage laws.
This past February, MLB announced that players at all levels of the minors would see minimum weekly salaries jump for the 2021 season, with players at the Triple-A level pulling in $8,400 annually. The announcement for raises came in the midst of MLB seeking to drastically reduce the number of affiliated minor-league teams, which would in essence kill off those clubs. That's ultimately what ended up happening when after over a year of negotiations for a new Professional Baseball Agreement (PBA), MLB and the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues (the governing body for minor-league baseball) failed to reach a new agreement.
MLB's proposal, as part of a dramatic restructure to the developmental pipeline, drew outrage from minor-league team owners, fans and government officials.
Now that ties have been dissolved between the two sides, MLB has begun implementing the new minor-league system they want. They began the process of eliminating minor-league affiliates last week, with the conversion of the Appalachian League to a college summer circuit for rising freshmen and sophomores. The Appalachian League had been an affiliated minor league with professional players since 1911.