Well, here we go! The Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) will now become the bargaining arm for unionized minor league players as Major League Baseball (MLB) voluntarily accepted the formation of a minor league union that will become the bargaining arm for minor league players. Had MLB not accepted the move, which was begun by the MLBPA less than two weeks ago, the National Labor Relations Board would have been asked to conduct an authorization election and the situation would have started on the wrong foot.
The union notified MLB that they had approximately 5,500 authorization cards signed by minor league players who are being paid under minor league contracts, meaning they are not on the team’s 40-man roster. In a formality, those signatures and cards must be authenticated. The first dispute is whether players in the Dominican Summer League (DSL) would be included as part of the union.
The MLBPA began representing major league players in 1968 and since then there have been nine work stoppages in baseball and salaries have risen from an average of $19,000 in ’68 – equivalent to about $162-thousand today – to over $4-million this year. Minor league players have been underpaid with some claiming to not even be receiving minimum wage when training and pre-game time is considered. There have also been issues with housing and other accommodations for minor league players over recent seasons. Just this season, MLB, which took over minor league baseball prior to the 2021 season, began requiring teams to provide housing for most minor league players.
Currently, minimum salaries for players in Class-A ball are set at $500 per week, with Double-A players receiving a minimum of $600 per week and Triple-A player minimums set at $700 per week.
The MLBPA will be setting up a separate union to negotiate on behalf of minor league players, meaning there will be player representatives and an executive board. It is likely that the first Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) to be negotiated will be in effect until December 1, 2026, which would coincide with the end of the agreement between the union and major league baseball.
An interesting scenario would be that if there would be a work stoppage for minor league baseball, players on the MLB 40-man roster who are optioned to minor league teams would not have a team to play for during the stoppage, which would lead them to having to workout and continue training at a team’s spring training complex in either Arizona or Florida rather than playing in actual games.