MLBPA Representation Of Minor Leaguers Becomes Official

The MLBPA’s efforts to represent minor leaguers have officially paid off, according to Evan Drellich of The Athletic and Jeff Passan of ESPN.

Just over two weeks ago, it was reported that the MLBPA had taken initial steps towards unionizing minor leaguers, with those players being asked to vote on designating the MLBPA as their collective bargaining representatives. About a week later, the MLBPA announced that a “significant” majority of minor leaguers have signed authorization cards in favor of the MLBPA creating a minor league bargaining unit, with the MLBPA requested that MLB recognize this effort. A few days later, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred announced that the league would indeed recognize as the bargaining representatives for minor leaguers. Today, an arbiter validated the card count with MLB then voluntarily recognizing the union.

MLBPA executive director Tony Clark released a statement on Twitter, which reads:

“I applaud this extraordinary group of young Players and welcome them to the MLBPA. This historic achievement required the right group of Players at the right moment to succeed. Minor leaguers have courageously seized that moment, and we look forward to improving their terms and conditions of employment through the process of good faith collective bargaining. I also want to acknowledge the tireless efforts of Harry Marino and the dedicated group he led at Advocates for Minor Leaguers, without whom this historic organizing campaign would not have been possible.”

Recent reporting revealed that every member of the Advocates for Minor Leaguers staff resigned and took on new jobs with the MLBPA. Membership in the union will now grow from 1200 to more than 5,000, though an MLBPA official told MLBTR last week the proposed unionization efforts would give minor leaguers their own separate bargaining unit under the MLBPA umbrella, adding that any minor league CBA would be negotiated independently of the Major League CBA that was completed earlier this year. Players in the rookie level Dominican Summer League will not automatically be included because it’s based outside the United States, but the MLBPA plans to bargain over DSL working conditions despite those players not officially joining the Association.

Congresspeople from both parties recently expressed an interest in reconsidering MLB’s antitrust exemption. Low rates of pay for minor leaguers has been one of many legislators’ critiques, but recognition of a union and signing a collective bargaining agreement with minor leaguers would take that issue outside the realm of antitrust law and into labor law territory.

Today’s news brings minor leaguers officially into a union for the first time in history, setting the stage for them to also negotiate the first ever CBA for minor leaguers. The various substandard working conditions of minor leaguers have become increasingly highlighted in recent years, with a focus on the low rates of pay and poor housing. There had been some small progress, with reporting in October of last year revealing that MLB was requiring teams to begin to provide housing for all MiLB players, something they were not previously required to do. In July, MLB paid $185MM to settle a lawsuit that began in 2014 related to low wages and minor league players not being paid for Spring Training. These issues, and any other issues minor leaguers may have, will now be addressed through collective bargaining between the union and the league. The MLBPA also recently joined the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), which will likely impact minor leaguers more than their major league counterparts since the benefits of AFL-CIO programs are in areas such as mortgages and car purchases.

All told, it seems like significant changes for Minor League Baseball and its players could be coming over the horizon, though the exact nature of those changes won’t be known until the bargaining process begins in earnest.

Published at Wed, 14 Sep 2022 21:55:42 +0000