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Report: Spending Bill Could Exempt MiLB Players From Labor Laws

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Under a proposed spending bill, Minor League Baseball players would be exempt from federal labor laws, according to a report from The Washington Post

There has been considerable legal debate over the past several years on this issue. While Major League Baseball has long viewed minor league players as apprentices, there have been attempts to gain specific language exempting players from federal labor laws, particularly amidst an ongoing legal debate over whether MLB has violated minimum wage laws in its pay for minor league players. With the latest proposal, MLB would seek to have exemptions for minor league players from labor laws written into federal policy.

The bill is pending at this point, but the Post reported on Monday that the proposal “would represent the culmination of more than two years of lobbying” on the part of MLB:

The exemption would represent the culmination of more than two years of lobbying by Major League Baseball, which has sought to preempt a spate of lawsuits that have been filed by minor leaguers alleging they have been illegally underpaid.

The league has long claimed exemptions for seasonal employees and apprenticeships, allowing its clubs to pay players as little as $1,100 a month, well under the pay that would be dictated under federal minimum wage and overtime standards. But with those exemptions under legal challenge, Major League Baseball has paid lobbyists hundreds of thousands of dollars to write a specific exemption into the law.

The provision does not appear in any of the draft spending bills assembled by the House and Senate appropriations subcommittees that deal with labor matters. But the officials familiar with the negotiations, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks, said the issue is under serious consideration by top party leaders.

Back in 2016, a bill dubbed the Save America’s Pastime Act was introduced to amend the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to clarify that MiLB players are not subject to a law that was intended to protect workers in traditional hourly rate jobs. Though introduced in the House, that bill was never considered. The latest push is part of a $1.3-trillion spending bill, coming at a point where federal lawmakers will have to pass a spending bill prior to a March 23 deadline to prevent a government shutdown.

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