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MLBPA seeks to represent minor leaguers

Good to see, though there are some questions that will need to be answered.

The Major League Baseball Players Association took an initial step toward unionizing the minor leagues Sunday night, sending out authorization cards that will allow minor league players to vote for an election that could make them MLBPA members.

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

The potential unionization of more than 5,000 minor leaguers is the latest action in a yearslong effort by players who won a $185 million settlement from the league in an unpaid wages class-action lawsuit and have received housing from teams and increased pay in recent years. Minor league players, whose compensation and benefits are not collectively bargained, continue to argue for higher salaries, which for a vast majority range from around $5,000 to $14,000 annually. Furthermore, the Senate Judiciary Committee has suggested it will call a hearing to explore MLB’s antitrust exemption and its treatment of minor leaguers.

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Advocates for Minor Leaguers, the group that has spent recent years organizing minor league players, is now working with the MLBPA, which collectively bargains with MLB on behalf of the 1,200 players on major league rosters.

“The last couple years has been a buildup of players offering their voices and their concerns, with Advocates for Minor Leaguers continuing to echo and aggregate those voices in a way that have gotten us to this point,” Clark told ESPN.

In order for the MLBPA to represent minor leaguers in collective bargaining, 30% of players need to sign union authorization cards, which would prompt an election. If a majority of those who vote in an election choose for union representation, the National Labor Relations Board will require MLB to recognize the union. The league and MLBPA then would collectively bargain for minor leaguers, an outcome that even five years ago would have registered as farfetched.

You can see a statement from the MLBPA here. I’m all in favor of this, and Lord knows the minor league players need representation, between MLB’s relentless efforts to cut their pay and more recently reduce the number of minor league teams. It’s just that the MLBPA hasn’t necessarily been a friend to minor leaguers in previous CBAs. Which is understandable, since those players weren’t and still aren’t a part of that union and the MLBPA was aiming to get the best deal it could get for its members. If the owners put some MiLB concessions on the table as a chip, well, the MLBPA had to consider what it meant for them. Very few current minor leaguers were affected by past CBAs, at least at the time, so I don’t think that will be an obstacle. The contraction of the minor leagues, with MLB in control of them, is a strong incentive for the players and the union to join forces. If this goes through, it won’t stop MLB from trying similar tactics in the future, it will just be a test of the larger union’s resolve. I’m rooting for them to get this done. CBS Sports has more.

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