$185 Million Settlement Reached in Minor League Baseball Dispute
The saying goes: "If you love what you do, you'll never have to work a day in your life." Well, Major League Baseball unfortunately took this old adage a bit too seriously.
It was revealed that MLB has been significantly underpaying their minor league players for decades, claiming that they were "apprentices." But it turns out that sports teams can't just treat their players like their jobs are nothing more than recreation.
In a win for the minor league players, MLB announced a $185 million settlement to current and former minor league baseball players for violations of minimum wage laws.
After eight years of floating through the courts with no trial, the settlement was finally filed on July 15th. It's still awaiting a federal judge's approval.
Estimates state that 23,000 players could end up sharing the money after accounting for legal fees. When what's left is distributed amongst thousands of players it's … much less impressive to say the least. When all is said and done, the average payment will likely end up at about $5,000 per player.
But how did we get to this point? With MLB teams making nearly a combined $9.5 billion in revenues in 2021 alone, you'd think that there would be more than enough money to pay minor league players a living wage. Despite this settlement, the wealth disparities between major and minor league players will remain utterly staggering.
Baseball's Wealth Disparities
Due to a new labor deal, the average MLB salary increased by 5.9% from last season. The average salary for an MLB player is now approximately $4.4 million! With minimum salaries being $700,000 per year, MLB players clearly don't seem to be dealing with any cash shortages. The same cannot be said for minor league players.
Over the course of anywhere between six and nine months, the lowest minor league salaries are $4,800 per season for rookie-ball players. The highest salaries are about $14,000 for Triple-A players. Additionally, these players do not make any income during the off-season or during extensive spring training sessions.
Mind you, these players are not simply playing pickup games a couple of times a week. Players have estimated that their work weeks are anywhere between 50 and 60 hours!
These incredibly low salaries are possible due to a 2018 federal law that removed minor league players from the protection of federal minimum wage laws.
Lawyers defending the earning rights of minor league players have noted the immense pressure put onto players trying to support themselves with these, at best, poverty wages. The median average salary of a minor league player is $800 less than the U.S. federal poverty level.
What Does This Mean for the Future of Minor League Baseball Players?
While these $5,000 payments have taken nearly a decade of court time to come to fruition, players are optimistic they could signal new a beginning for minor league baseball players.
MLB is currently in the process of overhauling its player development system. The league claims that a major element of this overhaul is to improve the lives and treatment of minor league players, beyond simply giving them generous benefits. Additionally, MLB has rescinded any and all prohibitions against minor league players receiving wages outside of the season.
Advocates for minor leaguers have pressed Congress to dig deeper into the mistreatment of these players. Players and their advocates also argue that paid travel time is essential, whether it be for practice or games.
- Equity, Equality, and Pay Disclosure in California (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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- Minimum Wage and Overtime Basics (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
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