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MLBPA announces initiative to unionize Minor League Baseball players

MLBPAThe Major League Baseball Players Association has announced a move to unionize Minor League Baseball players, an effort approved by the MLBPA Executive Board last night.

The unionization effort does not require approval or participation from Major League Baseball. The process is pretty straightforward. MLBPA will begin the process of sending out union authorization forms to the approximately 5,000 MiLB players. If 30 percent returns the form approving the vote, next would come an election where all MiLB players participate. If approved by a majority of players, they would become members of the MLBPA–not a separate MiLB union–and recognized as members by the National Labor Relations Board, as well as MLB.

“Minor Leaguers represent our game’s future and deserve wages and working conditions that befit elite athletes who entertain millions of baseball fans nationwide,” MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark said via press release. “They’re an important part of our fraternity and we want to help them achieve their goals both on and off the field.” 

Advocates for Minor Leaguers will cease to exist, with staff resigning to take on a new role working for the MLBPA.

“This generation of Minor League Players has demonstrated an unprecedented ability to address workplace issues with a collective voice,” said Harry Marino, outgoing Executive Director of Advocates for Minor Leaguers, via press release. “Joining with the most powerful union in professional sports assures that this voice is heard where it matters most – at the bargaining table.”

As the debate from Twitter lawyers will undoubtedly crescendo today and tomorrow:, remember: MiLB teams do not pay salaries for players. MLB teams do. Now, under a scenario where MLBPA is successful in this effort and we see a bargaining settlement where wages sharply rise, know these two things to be true: MiLB teams will not bear the direct costs of these wages as the system is currently constituted; MLB will no doubt find a way to shift some of these costs to MiLB operators under current licensing terms in any number of indirect ways.

The issue has always been MLBPA hesitation in extending membership to MiLB players (remember, there are tensions between MLB’s highest-paid players and the rank-and-file players making a salary closer to the minimum, tensions that were exposed when the players agreed to end the 2022 lockout over the opposition of the Executive Board), but after discussions with Advocates for Minor Leaguers, the decision was made to expand. Things are changing rapidly in the economics of Minor League Baseball. This year saw MLB teams commit to providing additional pay and housing for MiLB players, and this month we saw players and MLB settling a $185-million lawsuit calling for back pay covering overtime in California and Arizona. Players wages are still low and apportioned in a way that considers players as part-time workers, and the U.S. Senate is using Minor League Baseball as a tool to challenge MLB’s much-discussed anti-trust exemption.

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