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When America’s pastime and labor laws collide

5.30.17

Unpaid training. Unpaid overtime. A $25 stipend for an entire day spent in a city you don’t live in. If that sounds great to you and you know your way around a baseball diamond, head on over to your city’s minor league baseball team. You’d be a great fit.

We’re not talking about the guys in the majors whom you watch on TV. They make six figures per year on average. We’re talking about Minor League Baseball (MiLB) players who forego payment for training, overtime, and even mandatory events—often making under the IRS-defined poverty line of $12,060/year for a one person household.

 

Hold up. How is this happening?

If you’re having trouble believing me, you’re not alone.

In a piece for ESPN advocating for higher wages, Tony Blengino, a former assistant to the GM for the Mariners, says a first-year professional can expect to make a little over $1,000 pre tax every month. While other industries may point to thin profit margins as an excuse for low wages, professional baseball doesn’t fit the bill. Recent evaluation puts the average major league team’s worth at $1.54 billion.

That’s why a group of former minor leaguers are waging a class action lawsuit against Major League Baseball, who maintains that MiLB players are akin to hourly workers. The suit cites unfair wages and unjust labor practices according to the Fair Labor Standards Act. Of the 2,200 players currently involved in the class action lawsuit, most are inactive. Kyle Johnson, one of the few active members, said players fear being blackballed and unable to get a gig in the future.

The Major League Baseball Player’s Association (MLBPA) protects major league players against low salaries and unfair labor standards. However, this protection only applies to players currently on the team’s 40-man roster. Until MiLB players unionize, many keep quiet and hope they make it to the majors quickly. They choose to endure rather than potentially lose a shot at their dream.

 

So what does it all mean?

Baseball is only one of many industries figuring out labor laws and fair pay. Uber’s recent struggles show the gig economy and the worker classification challenges it brings to the forefront are top-of-mind topics for the government and employers alike. While some workers wait for the government to adjust labor laws and employers to fall in line, others (like the minor leaguers involved in current litigation) take the matter into their own hands. Stay in tune with the conversation to know your rights and navigate the increasingly complicated waters of the American economy.

 

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Nat's notes

About the author

PayReel Customer Experience Manager Natalie “The Go Getter” McGinnis is an avid sports and labor law fan alike. Her experience in recruitment, customer service, and ongoing HR education give her the tools to provide laser-focused attention and assistance to the PayReel employees and clients who need it most. Click here to read more of Nat’s Notes and meet the rest of the PayReel team by clicking here!

 

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