Seeking better pay, Minor League baseball players seek to overturn antitrust exemption

A non-profit organization is seeking to raise salaries for minor league baseball players and has caught the attention of the US Senate.

Minor League Defendersa group founded in 2020 by a group of aspiring former baseball players, sent a letter to the Senate blaming MLB’s antitrust exemption for a plethora of problems facing minor leaguers, including low wages and l inability to bargain collectively for better working conditions.

The bipartisan group of lawmakers, which includes Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) replied last month with a request for additional information on the matter, saying that “this bipartisan request for information will help inform the Committee of the impact of this exemption, particularly with respect to minor leagues and international prospects”.

The Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Durbin, sent the request after the lawyers had complained that the Curt Flood Act of 1998 prevented minor league players from asking for a higher salary – because their salaries are currently decided by the 30 MLB organizations, with little recourse for players to challenge this arrangement.

“We need to make sure that all professional baseball players can play on a fair and equal playing field,” Drubin said.

After the committee demanded more information about the situation, minor league advocates responded, pushing for the repeal of the decades-old law.

“It would make the entire minor league conspiracy illegal – both (1) the owners’ agreement to cut wages and working conditions for minor league players and (2) the owners’ agreement to artificially limit the number of Minor League teams and in turn the overall number of Minor League players,” said Harry Marino, an executive at the nonprofit.

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MLB previously disbanded 40 minor league teams ahead of the 2021 season, as Athletic reported.

Because minor league players don’t have a union (unlike major league players), they’re subject to whatever decisions the 30 MLB franchises decide – including the number of teams and salary range of players. players.

If the law were to be repealed, minor leaguers would no longer fall under the exemption that prevents them from litigate on their own behalf, which they cannot do under current United States antitrust laws.

This would allow them to take legal action against MLB, which relies on the exemption to set wages and has near-total control over MLiB.

“But for baseball’s antitrust exemption, the current treatment of Minor League players would be illegal,” Marino wrote in response to the senators’ request last month, in a letter obtained by The Associated Press.

Minor league baseball players earn between $4,800 and $15,400, according to USA Todaywhich is not enough to live on for many in very expensive markets, like New York (home to both the Brooklyn Cyclones and the Staten Island FerryHawks).

It’s unclear whether the recent response to the senators’ letter will lead to legislation, and whether any potential bill would pass through both legislative bodies in Washington DC – although the group will certainly take comfort in the fact that lawmakers proactively monitor the problem.

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