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Labor progress for minor leaguers, stadium workers

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Los Angeles Dodgers vs Chicago Cubs, 2017 National League Championship Series Set Number: X161467 TK2

Folks on the lower end of the totem pole in Major League Baseball’s universe got good news on Friday, on a couple of fronts. Dodger Stadium workers will not strike during the All-Star Game and surrounding activities, and minor leaguers reached a $185 million settlement with MLB will also correct an archaic practice going forward.

Dodger Stadium workers used their leverage to gain a better deal with Levy Restaurants, who runs the concessions at the stadium. After threatening to walk out during the biggest event of the year at the ballpark, the group on Friday agreed not to strike thanks to gains made in negotiations. From the local chapter of the Unite Here union, which represents the stadium workers:

Also on Friday, MLB agreed to settle a class action suit that will pay $185 million to minor leaguers who sought restitution for minimum-wage and overtime violations in a case that started eight years ago.

After legal fees, about $120 million figures to go to the players. Evan Drellich at The Athletic cited Garrett Brohius, a former minor league pitcher who was on the legal team for the players, saying roughly 20,000 players are in line for back pay. Ronald Blum at the Associated Press reported, “An early estimate is that perhaps 23,000 players could share the money with an average payment of $5,000 to $5,500, according to a filing by Brian Kriegler, the players’ damages expert.”

Getting those players paid, even if those amounts aren’t life-changing by any means, still mark an important milestone for minor leaguers.

“For decades, Major League Baseball’s thirty team owners have openly conspired to underpay Minor League baseball players,” said Harry Marino, executive director for Advocates for Minor Leaguers. “Perhaps the most egregious aspect of the Minor League Conspiracy — which is currently being investigated by Congress — is that players are required to provide between 6 and 9 months of free labor each year. Today’s settlement announcement is an acknowledgment of, and an important first step toward remedying, that injustice.”

Another key win for minor leaguers is part of the settlement, and what it means going forward. From Jeff Passan at ESPN:

As part of the settlement, MLB will issue a memo that allows teams to pay minor league players during spring training, and extended spring training and instructional leagues in Florida and Arizona. Teams previously had been blocked from doing so.

This will at least codify what should have happened long ago, and no longer give teams the excuse of that’s how they’ve always done it.