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MLB teams collecting clubhouse dues shows the importance of minor league advocacy


This spring training, the Dodgers were charging their minor leaguers clubhouse dues, a practice that was eliminated by Major League Baseball in 2020.

Dodgers minor leaguers were asked to pay $40 per week in clubhouse dues. That’s a heavy burden by itself for players, many of whom might earn as little as $400 per week during the season. But it’s even more punitive during spring training, when minor leaguers aren’t paid a salary.

The Dodgers were one of four teams called out publicly, along with the Nationals, White Sox, and the Twins for continuing this already outlawed process, by Advocates for Minor Leaguers.

Dodgers general manager Brandon Gomes told Jack Harris of the Los Angeles Times that charging the minor leaguers for clubhouse dues was an unintentional mistake:

Gomes said last week’s report — which included a photo of a sign asking Dodgers minor leaguers to pay $40 — was the first time the team’s front office was aware dues were being collected in their minor league clubhouse. The Dodgers took down their sign the next day and reimbursed their players by Sunday.

It’s good that the Dodgers corrected what they say is a mistake, but charging the minor league players clubhouse dues shouldn’t have happened in the first place. But like many things, the dues persisted mostly because that’s how it always been. That’s not a good enough reason.

Minor leaguers get the short end of the stick in so many ways in baseball, with MLB owners seeing those players as merely costs instead of people.

Minor league players, the ones not on 40-man rosters, are not members of the MLB Players Association, and have no union nor representation. Advocates for Minor Leaguers is trying to change that, noting on its website, “For decades, Minor League players endured exploitative working conditions, including extremely low pay, without anyone on their side.”

The advocacy group was formed in 2020. Infielder Ty Kelly, who was then retired but is now back and playing for Triple-A Oklahoma City, was a co-hounder of Advocates for Minor Leaguers and is a current board member.

The group has been instrumental in highlighting inequities and poor working conditions for minor leaguers, amplifying the voices of players willing to share such information at the threat of retribution for speaking out.

Advocates for Minor Leaguers helped spur major league teams to pay for minor league housing beginning this year, first in getting the policy implemented in November then later calling out the flaws in the system. The group has also shared the wins in the housing policy, with a handful of players showing their improved living conditions in 2022 on social media.

The squeaky wheel gets the grease. Players have been pivotal in willing to share poor conditions, and Advocates for Minor Leaguers have helped amplifying those voices. The advocacy has worked in many cases, and needs to keep going. Because MLB teams for the most part won’t always make the necessary choices without a little (and sometimes loud) push in the right direction.