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New advocacy group calls for minor leaguers to receive a living wage

“Minor leaguers have been systematically silenced for decades.”

MLB: MAR 08 Spring Training - Reds at Cubs (ss) Photo by Jeff Speer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

At a time when the vulnerability of minor league players is at its most visible during the coronavirus shutdown, a group of former players are among the founders of an organization dedicated to fight for minor leaguer players’ rights.

Advocates for Minor Leaguers launched Friday, with a stated goal of “providing a voice for minor league players and improving working conditions,” and an immediate demand that minor leaguer players be paid a minimum of $15,000 per year.

“This organization is long overdue,” said Garrett Broshuis, an attorney who pitched six years in the Giants’ system. “Even though they work in an industry with over $10 billion in annual revenue that is enjoying record profits, minor league players are among the most poorly paid workers in America. Advocates for Minor Leaguers seeks to change that.”

Minor leaguers aren’t represented by the Major League Baseball Players Association, and the discrepancy in their salaries relative to major leaguers shows that lack of representation. Among the stats shared by Advocates for Minor Leaguers is that since 1975, the minimum MLB salary has risen 3,400 percent, while minor league salaries in that same time rose just 70 percent.

MLB plans to raise minor league minimum salaries in 2021, going from $290 per week in Class-A up to $502 in Triple-A this year to $400 and $700, respectively, next year. Even at that highest minimum rate in Triple-A, since minor league players are only paid during the season, that comes out to $14,000 per year. The annual earnings for a full-time worker earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour is $15,080.

The “Save America’s Pastime Act” was passed into U.S. law as part of a larger spending bill in March 2018. Lobbied for by MLB, the law exempts minor league players from receiving overtime pay, only guaranteeing a minimum wage for a 40-hour week “irrespective of the number of hours the employee devotes to baseball related activities,” and only during the regular season.

When spring training camps were shut down last weekend, many minor leaguers went home, trying to balance staying ready for baseball’s return while also needing money to live. A’s minor league pitcher Peter Bayer started driving with DoorDash last week, and some Phillies minor leaguers planned to drive for Uber during the downtime. There are countless stories like these.

Uncertainty reigned among the few minor league players I contacted last week, not knowing if or when spring training might start again, and unsure if or when they would be paid.

On Thursday, MLB announced plans to pay minor leaguers a stipend through April 8 (reported to be $400 per week), what would have been the end of their spring training. In addition, the statement from MLB said the league “remains in communication with clubs on the development of an industry-wide plan for minor league player compensation from April 9th through the beginning of the coming season.”

Among the founders of the advocacy group with Broshuis are fellow former players Ty Kelly, Matt Paré, and Raul Jacobson.

“Minor leaguers have been systematically silenced for decades,” Kelly said in a statement. “They enter this time of great uncertainty equipped only with the hope that their basic needs will finally not go forgotten. They need a voice more than ever.”