Major League Baseball has tried several avenues to exempt the minor leagues from being forced to pay aspiring players the minimum wage, the latest of which is a provision in an upcoming government spending bill about to be voted on in Washington, DC.
The pay scale offered by the minors is ostensibly covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), but MLB wants Congress to exempt the minors because, they say, the higher pay scale would bankrupt the smaller teams struggling to survive, For The Win reported.
MLB helped sponsor one effort to exempt the minors from paying the minimum wage to its young players. Back in 2016, MLB’s lobbyists helped write the Save America’s Pastime Act (HR 5580). Brett Guthrie (R, KY) and Cheri Bustos (D, IL) originally sponsored the bill, but Bustos pulled her support after she “discovered” that many of the players are supported by the majors and are not solely supported by the minors. The bill ultimately died.
But MLB has found a new way to push its plan to exempt minor league players from earning the minimum wage by adding a provision in a spending bill that will soon be debated in the House of Representatives.
According to the Washington Post, the spending bill includes a provision to cancel the minimum wage for the minors.
“(Minor League Baseball president Pat) O’Connor said the litigation underway represents an existential threat to minor league clubs, which could see their business model upended if courts rule that players must be paid according to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act,” Post writer Mike DeBonis reported.
MLB is not acting in a vacuum. The league is facing a 2014 class-action lawsuit by dozens of former and current minor leaguers who want the law to force the minors to observe FLSA rules.
One of the litigants in the 2014 lawsuit is discouraged by the “back door” effort to pass the exemption via the spending bill.
“They’re trying to back-door it into the spending bill. It’s all happening in secret, behind closed doors, so we have limited knowledge just like everyone else has limited knowledge,” said attorney Garrett Broshuis, a former minor league player and a party to the lawsuit.
Broshuis added that the low wages many players are now earning are barely enough to keep them moving forward as they strive to reach the big leagues. While top players earn tens of thousands and are supported by major league teams, in some cases, many other players only earn $12,000 a year playing in the minors.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.