Thursday, June 30, 2016

MLB Trying to Push Legislation to Get Around Paying Minimum Wage to Minor Leaguers

I'm going to take a moment here to share some short thoughts about baseball and legislation in the news. 

For those who may not know, minor league baseball players don’t make very much on average. Like, below-minimum-wage, bordering onfederal-poverty-line salaries. And since most minor leaguers, statistically speaking, do not reach the majors, this is a large number of people.

Several minor leaguers have sued Major League Baseball for violating minimum wage and overtime pay laws. So far, makes sense. They have a decent chance of winning, too. Which brings us to last week: two Representatives introduced the deceptively-named “Save Our Pastime” act (HR 5580), to the endorsement of Minor League Baseball. The law would essentially explicitly exempt Minor League Baseball from minimum wage and overtime pay laws, circumventing their upcoming lawsuit.

It’s also worth noting that the bill’s bipartisan sponsors, Brett Guthrie (R-KY) and Cheri Bustos (D-IL), both received money from Major League Baseball’s PAC, and that Guthrie is the son of the PAC’s former head lobbyist.

The law is framed in such a way that it makes the price of paying minor leaguers sound like an onerous burden on teams that might bankrupt minor league teams. In actuality, the Major League teams are the ones footing the bill for minor leaguers’ salaries, and minor league teams would be unaffected. On top of that, MLB is a multi-billion dollar industry that regularly gets absurd handouts for things like publically-financed stadiums, and each team could pay it’s entire minor league system even as much as $50,000 per year (roughly the US median household income) and the total cost (~$7.5 million) still wouldn’t be far off from the average Major League player’s salary ($4.4 million).

I’m worried this bill could pass because it sounds so innocuous, and sports leagues regularly get more ridiculous legislation passed. In reality, it’s a multi-billion dollar industry asking Congress to help bail it out from a lawsuit it brought upon itself for not paying it’s workers fair wages, and I’m even more worried of the precedent it might set for other industries. The group that’s supposed to represent these players (the MLB Player’s Association) has issued no statements, and has regularly ignored issues affecting minor leaguers if it hasn’t helped those at the highest level, so I’m not sure what counterbalance there is. If you’re the type of person who writes to your representatives, maybe consider dropping them a line to let them know.

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