Major League Baseball announced it will pay $185 million to Minor Leaguers after settling in a federal class-action lawsuit filed by Minor League players who sought for minimum-wage and overtime violations by teams.
For decades, MLB hid behind the Antitrust exemption, which allowed them not to pay Minor Leaguers during spring training, extended spring training, and instructional leagues in Florida and Arizona. Besides that, MLB violated minimum wage and overtime laws.
Jeff Passan was the first to report about this historic feat:
The lawsuit was filed by former Miami Marlins farm hand Aaron Senne and two other retired minor league players. The lawsuit was settled by MLB on May 10 already, three weeks it would go to trial. Thousands of other players will be eligible to receive part of the $120,197,300 due to players. The rest of that $185 million is going to attorney’s fees and other costs.
Advocates For Minor Leaguers came with the following statement after the news of the settlement was announced.
By settling before the lawsuit even took place, MLB acknowledges that is has been acting wrong in the past decades. But most of all, this is also damage control. By settling, MLB avoided even bigger damages. 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, as part of the settlement. So far, teams have been blocked from doing so. The first significant blow in an long effort by minor league players to improve their financial positions, the suit alleged MLB teams violated federal and state minimum-wage and overtime laws. The U.S. Supreme Court denied MLB’s attempt to dismiss the class in October 2020.
According to Garrett Broshuis, the attorney who spearheaded the suit, “This settlement is a monumental step for minor league players toward a fair and just compensation system. As a former minor league baseball player, I’ve seen first-hand the financial struggle players face while earning poverty-level wages, or no wages at all, in pursuit of their major league dream. For the better part of a decade, it has been my honor to help lead this fight and to shine a light on the unfair labor practices that have long plagued America’s pastime.”
It must be said that this season, MLB implemented a new policy that mandates teams to cover lodging for players at home after they previously were responsible for it.
But so far this year, more has happened. The judge in Senne v. MLB, Joseph C. Spero, awarded the class $1.88 million for MLB’s lack of compliance with California wage laws. The suit divides the class into three groups: players who participated in Spring Training or extended spring training in Florida starting Feb. 7, 2009, California League players from Feb. 7, 2010 on, and players from Arizona spring training and extended after Feb. 7, 2011.
According to Judge Spero, minor leaguers are year-round employees instead of the seasonal employees MLB likes to see them: “These are not students who have enrolled in a vocational school with the understanding that they would perform services, without compensation, as part of the practical training necessary to complete the training and obtain a license.”
This is only the beginning. Advocates For Minor Leaguers is also pushing for changes. The new policy regarding the housing of MiLB players by MLB clubs is the result of that. For sure, more is to follow.