The move by Major League Baseball undermines the collective bargaining agreement agreed to between MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Association
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, led his colleagues U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and John Hickenlooper (D-CO) in pressing Rob Manfred, the Commissioner of Major League Baseball (MLB), on the MLB’s lobbying for a broad wage and hour exemption in Florida at the same time it was negotiating a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA), which undermines the agreement ultimately finalized.
The Senators begin by outlining the broad support for the CBA agreed to between MLB and Minor League players: “On March 31, 2023, over 99 percent of Minor League players voted to ratify a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with Major League Baseball (MLB). Days later, on April 3, Major League Baseball’s owners voted unanimously to ratify the CBA. The CBA, the first between MLB and Minor League players, was the result of negotiations that began after Minor League players officially unionized in September 2022, joining the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA).”
The Senators then highlight a specific provision of the agreement for the MLB and MLBPA to express joint support for a narrowly tailored exemption from wage and hour laws. The exemption would only apply if the players are being compensated pursuant to the terms of a CBA: “The agreement also includes a provision that states that the MLBPA will agree to execute and send a joint letter to “lawmakers/regulators” at the request of the Office of the Commissioner “to express our joint support for legislation that would provide a narrowly tailored exemption from wage and hour laws…that otherwise could apply to Players, in deference to the compensation and benefit provisions of the new [CBA]…provided the exemption would only apply to Players during the period in which they are compensated pursuant to the terms of the CBA.” This provision comes in the aftermath of MLB’s $185 million settlement in the Senne class-action lawsuit that alleged violations of state and federal wage and hour laws. MLB and the MLBPA have sent or are exploring sending such joint letters to state government officials in California, Arizona, New York, Washington, and North Carolina.”
By lobbying for a broad exemption in Florida while simultaneously negotiating with the MLBPA, the MLB’s actions appear to run contrary to the agreed-upon CBA, which the Senators raise: “These efforts by MLB to pass a broad exemption from state wage and hour laws in Florida appear to significantly undermine the agreement MLB entered into with the MLBPA and put at risk the gains made by Minor League players to finally earn a living wage. Florida plays an outsized role in the training and development of Minor League players. The state is the Spring Training home to half of MLB’s 30 Clubs, half its Complex League teams, and 12 additional Minor League teams. In the absence of a future CBA, players for one of the 25 Florida teams in the Florida Complex and Low-A Southeast Leagues—who rank among the lowest-paid players in baseball—would be vulnerable to the effects of S.B. 892. … In short, under Florida’s current minimum wage and the Complex League’s 16-week “championship season,” as long as MLB paid a Complex League player $7,680, they would not run afoul of the state’s law. This would be less than 40 percent of the minimum annual salary a Complex League player makes under the current CBA.
The Senators conclude by requesting answers to the following questions by November 28, 2023:
In June 2022, Durbin led a letter to Advocates for Minor Leaguers, asking about the impact of MLB’s antitrust exemption on competition in the labor market for Minor League players. In July 2022, Durbin sent a similar letter to Commissioner Manfred. These letters played a role in pushing MLB to recognize the unionization of Minor League players under the umbrella of the MLBPA in September 2022.