Should minor league baseball players be counted among the members of the working poor? That's what three former minor leaguers are alleging in a recent lawsuit against Major League Baseball, Bud Selig, the Kansas City Royals, San Francisco Giants, and Miami Marlins.
The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California by Aaron Senne, Michael Liberto, and Oliver Odle, alleging violations of wage and overtime laws in the way that professional baseball teams pay their minor league players.
In the article quoted above, Michael McCann - founder of the Sports and Entertainment Law Institute at the University of New Hampshire School of Law - has this to say:
To advance their legal argument, the three players describe the life of a typical minor leaguer as one of constant "exploitation." They contend the exploitation begins at the start of a player's career, where teams have allegedly agreed to not negotiate salaries or inform players of salary data. Players then earn meager wages while purportedly working between 60 and 70 hours per week. This range of work includes playing in six or seven games a week and doing conditioning and other work to keep their skills and bodies sharp. Players are also unpaid for participating in the instructional league and extended spring training. The players believe that they, and other current and former minor leaguers, are owed back wages for uncompensated and under-compensated labor.
It may go without saying, but if Major League Baseball were forced to pay back wages to every player who ever played in the minor leagues, it could have a devastating effect on the sport.
The players claim that wages have effectively been frozen for minor leaguers, who have seen their salaries raise by just 75 percent since 1976. Factoring in inflation, players make less now than they did then, according to Senne, Liberto, and Odle. Perhaps compounding the matter for Selig is that the "slotting" system that he instituted for the 2012 draft, which effectively restricts the signing bonuses that players receive as they enter the MLB workforce, further dampening their earning power.
Perhaps not surprisingly, one of the lawyers for the players is another former minor leaguer, Garrett Broshuis. Broshuis, who seems to be setting himself up nicely for a job with the MLBPA, earned headlines last year when he claimed that there was a "culture of deception" surrounding professional baseball.
What do you think? Are minor leaguers being exploited? Should they be compensated more fairly for the long hours they put in, or should they be grateful for the opportunity to get paid to play a game?