MLB Players Association seeks unionization for minor leaguers

Sports

(NewsNation) — The Major League Baseball Players Association is taking the first step toward unionizing minor leaguers.

The association said Monday it is sending players authorization cards that would allow them to vote on joining the union. It marks a significant shift for the MLBPA, which has long opposed minor leaguers organizing.

“Minor leaguers represent our game’s future and deserve wages and working conditions that befit elite athletes who entertain millions of baseball fans nationwide,” union head Tony Clark said in a statement Monday. “They’re an important part of our fraternity and we want to help them achieve their goals both on and off the field.”

Unlike their major league counterparts, minor league players cannot collectively bargain over wages or working conditions, both of which have been the subject of yearslong legal battles. Salaries for a vast majority of players range from $5,000 to $14,000, ESPN reported, and many have to work second jobs to make ends meet.

The fight has received the attention of Congress and advocacy groups such as Advocates for Minor Leaguers. The staff of the advocacy group quit and will now work for the MLBPA.

“Though there is much work left to be done, one thing is clear: better days lie ahead for Major League baseball players,” the group wrote in a statement on Twitter.

There are two ways players can unionize, according to the National Labor Relations Board. First, if 30% sign authorization cards, the NLRB will conduct an election. If a majority of all players then vote in favor, the NLRB will certify the election. Alternatively, MLB could voluntarily recognize a union based on evidence — “typically signed union-authorization cards,” the NLRB says — that a majority of employees want it to represent them.

Players with major league contracts, of which there are approximately 1,200, are represented by the union, which since the 1981 strike settlement also has negotiated terms for those on option to the minor leagues.

MLB raised weekly minimum salaries for minor leaguers in 2021 to $400 at rookie and short-season levels, $500 at Class A, $600 at Double-A and $700 at Triple-A. For players on option, the minimum is $57,200 per season for a first big league contract and $114,100 for later big league contracts.

In addition, MLB this year began requiring teams to provide housing for most minor leaguers.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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